Dining on new foods is of course one of the best reasons to go to the Minnesota State Fair. When looking something different, stop by the Agriculture Horticulture building to try Solar Honey Swirl ice cream.
The tasty treat that will be sold at the Minnesota Honey Producers Association booth adds honey to vanilla ice cream. But it’s not just any honey. This honey was produced by honey bees in colonies placed within solar gardens that have pollinator-friendly plants. This is why it is called Solar Honey.
Most of the honey comes from Connexus Energy’s solar garden in Ramsey. The energy co-op partnered with Bolton Bees to have 15 hives placed in boxes next to the solar array on its Ramsey campus. This has produced jars of Solar Honey, which will be for sale at the Minnesota State Fair, said Bolton Bees founders and owners Travis and Chiara Bolton.
Newer pollinator-friendly solar gardens in Farmington and Scandia owned by NRG Energy produced some of the Solar Honey for this ice cream but most is coming from Ramsey, the Boltons said.
The Minnesota State Fair is about more than gorging; it’s also about education. The Boltons have worked with an organization called Fresh Energy to encourage more pollinator-friendly habitats in solar gardens across Minnesota as opposed to putting gravel underneath the solar arrays.
“It’s a great way to raise awareness while eating something great at the same time,” Chiara Bolton said.
The decline of the Monarch butterfly and honey bee populations and the need for more pollinator-friendly gardens have been national talking points.
Fresh Energy said energy companies that have solar arrays have a lot of land to plant pollinator-friendly gardens. Rob Davis, spokesperson for Fresh Energy, said Connexus’ garden provides pollinator habitat equivalent to 726 households each having a 6-foot by 12-foot pollinator garden.
Davis encourages farmers to plant pollinator-friendly gardens as well because it puts more organics into the topsoil, which improves crop yields for soy beans and a variety of fruits and vegetables.
“We’re excited for the State Fair to begin and for this new collaboration,” Travis Bolton said.
The Minnesota State Fair runs from Aug. 24 through Sept. 4.