• Lori Turner

A "BEE"utiful Sweet Experience

Updated: May 22

A “BEE”utiful Sweet Experience by Lori Turner

As a young child being involved with the family’s beekeeping and honey business, Virginia had lofty goals at three years old of becoming Idaho’s first Honey Queen. If you are a big city slicker you must be wondering what on earth is an Idaho Honey Queen and why would anyone aspire to become one? Most of us born in large cities have no concept of what it is like being raised in a small town and the only queen anyone was familiar with is the one living in England. Most city dwellers don’t have time to breathe let alone think about how their food was produced, but in small rural communities, it’s a big deal. Many of us who had the pleasure of visiting farms as children know how unbelievably memorable it is to bite into a crisp apple straight off of the tree or taste a sun-warmed pea pod pulled immediately from the vine. Unfortunately, children today think food comes from the nice Walmart employee that places the grocery bags in the back of mommy’s car when she pulls up to parking spot number four. That is why most of us have never heard of a Honey Queen or even a Potato Queen for that matter. Rural communities are disappearing at an alarming rate and our once wild organic foods are being replaced with genetically modified foods grown in labs and factories conveniently delivered to your car or home. There are some folks out there who still believe in creating traditional, homegrown wholesome foods but, they are not usually your next-door neighbor.

Hidden in the desert ten miles away from the glitzy, sultry and salacious town of Las Vegas, lives a suburban wife, mother and grandmother Virginia Cox Walker; Idaho’s first Honey Queen. Obviously, she is no longer living in Idaho, but everywhere she goes she is a walking a piece of unknown history that she loves to share with others. In the late 1800s, Virginia’s grandfather a farmer in a small town in Utah, realized that his side business of tending to bees and making honey made for a better living than raising and selling typical farm animals. After the family migrated to Shelley, Idaho her grandfather offered up the sweet business to his son’s but one, being allergic to the sun, could not take on the endeavor so it was up to Virginia’s father (the youngest) to perfect the business. Not an easy task for a young man with a wife and family to feed during the Great Depression. He made quite the impression with his determination and work ethic because the bankers (not known to hand out loans during that time) gave him a business loan. Cox’s Honey with his invention of “Sweet Creamed Honey” is still hiving and thriving today.

Virginia, the youngest in the family just like her father grew up in the small town of Shelley, Idaho which happens to be the nation’s capital of the russet potato. The town's “claim to fame” is they can grow a russet potato so big it could feed an entire family. Every year the Shelley school children were excused for two weeks to participate in the harvesting of the potato. It was called the “Spud Festival” which included the laborious task of digging up the potatoes but also many reasons to celebrate and have fun. There was a pageant, parades, spud-oriented games and of course the Potato Queen in all of her glory. The Potato Queen is a coveted position in Shelley, and competition is fierce. In high school, Virginia knowing it might be a long shot ran for the position but didn’t come close to making it to the finals. Flooded with memories traveling with her father as a small child attending the National Honey Convention all around the United States, she realized she always wanted to be like the young women crowned the Honey Queen by following them around just like the worker bees did following the queen bee in the hive. The most pivotal and unfortunate moment in Virginia’s young life was the loss of her beloved mother from all things a bee sting. Determined and inspired in the memory of her mother, with a spunky attitude and a dynamic passion for honey, Virginia became in 1978 ‘s Idaho’s Honey Queen.

In many farming communities in the United States, they have a “queen” that represents the produce grown in the various rural communities. In 1957 the American Honey Queen Program was created as a local, state, and national program for young women to be selected each year to be a spokesperson for the beekeeping and honey industry. The winner gets to travel around the country at various conventions to educate the public on the importance and value of bees and honey. It so happened the 1977 National Honey Convention was held that year in Boise, Idaho a five hour drive from Shelley. Being a perfect age, she along with other young high school women across the country competed for their state’s position. Virginia stood in front of the large audience gave a speech, played to perfection her mother’s favorite song on the organ “Somewhere My Love” and it was unanimous, she became the 1978’s Honey Queen of Idaho! It was a “sweet” reign and to this day, continues to share the memories and educate the public on what she experienced throughout this special time in her life. Long gone are the days of being the queen but like with everything as time passes by, change brings on new refreshing ideas. As emails started to become a “thing” Virginia and her husband brainstormed together what would be the most unique and appropriate name and her husband unknowingly came up with something that would elevate a new business adventure, honeyqueen78@coxshoney.com. The former Honey Queen of Idaho has reinvented herself as “Cox’s Honey Queen”.

As social media platforms create unlimited advertising and exposure for small businesses, Virginia felt it was time to have her own logo. She asked her talented niece to draw her something that encompassed traditional values, a sweet disposition, and a savvy businesswoman just like Virginia. Betty Bee was born and now it was time to elevate the business into what it is today. In 2017 together with the help of her youngest daughter Emily as her videographer, they have created a wonderful and quaint YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNHknlnHHH65FV7GoVGZMBw. As you begin to explore and view Cox’s Honey Queen videos you will be able to see and experience her rich family history and the legacy of the business. View her modeling the original sash and tiara she once wore as Idaho’s Honey Queen. But, the heart and soul of her channel are demonstrating unique recipes created by her with all things, of course, honey and important uses of it, beeswax and byproducts. It is wholesome, educational and just sweet fun.

Cox’s Honey is still a mom and pop shop but recognized all over the United States and parts of the world. It is pure, natural, raw, and unfiltered. No one makes creamed honey-like Cox’s. “If you like honey, take one taste of the creamed version and you will be addicted!” Says Virginia. The health benefits of honey go beyond just being in a recipe. Honey can assist with easing seasonal allergies, soothe burned skin, help heal wounds and moisturize the skin. If you had to choose one item in your pantry and medicine box, it should be honey! It is nature’s precious gift from heavenly bees. Virginia appreciates a good pun, play on words, and always says, “Unlike the Onion Queen who makes you cry, being the Honey Queen was a “BEE”UTIFUL SWEET experience!”

To learn more about Virginia or order from The Honey Queen please visit www.coxshoneyqueen.com