My dad, Nick Poto, was an unconventional guy, to say the least
He worked the swing-shift at a Southern California aerospace company, but when he clocked out at 11:00 PM, instead of going home and relaxing, he'd move his beehives around until the wee hours of the morning (hence, his nickname, The Midnight Beekeeper).
That's because beekeepers need to be mobile - different locations enable distinctly different flavors of honey to be produced.
Nick took great pride in how his raw, unfiltered honey hit people’s taste buds like no other, and he enjoyed giving away jars of it to fellow farmers he’d stop by and visit with in the Bakersfield area.
While there, he’d ask if they needed any bees for pollination, and the answer was almost always a resounding “Yes!” In fact, they’d gladly pay Nick quite well for the service.
It all started innocently enough…
The actual origins of Honey Pacifica can be traced to my brother Frank who happened to come up with a high-school science project that involved bees, which he brought home after the fair was over.
Farmer that he was, dad took the swarm out to the backyard where we all learned how to cultivate the hive. Eventually, we had 40 hives going.
The taste of the resulting honey was not only beyond expectations, it was beyond words.
My mom, Jean, understood its great value.
While dad loved to delight folks with gifts of his signature honey, mom loved to keep the family afloat.
So whenever the household budget needed an infusion of cash, she’d set up a roadside stand out front and, in the process, ultimately built up quite the clientele. As with Nick, everyone just naturally loved her.
All this time, friends and family kept telling Nick, “It’s a crime to not share this with the world,” until finally he relented and officially started a honey business, back in 1979.
Unfortunately, Nick was more beekeeper than bookkeeper.
To no one’s surprise, then, Jean needed to step in and pull up the slack in terms of handling the business side of the new company (even though she was mainly an artist – among her other wonderful talents).
Since my mom was a Brit and Nick was born in Selerno, Italy, they were affectionally known in our circles as “the odd couple.”
Farmer’s markets were the natural next step.
This new phase in our story put Honey Pacifica out before the public much more broadly.
Surprisingly, very few people back then sold the kind of raw, unfiltered honey that we produced. That, coupled with the unlike-any-other-taste-in-the-world flavors we offered, made our products instant hits.
I remember how gratified my folks were by the reception our honey got – some buyers became downright emotional about it!
Today we sell directly to our customers at many Farmers' Markets throughout Southern California.
Our cottage industry needed a new cottage.
Even though our family was very close with our neighbors, one of them finally had enough of bees buzzing around his property, so we needed to relocate our honey-making operation.
Luckily, there was a meat-packing plant, certified for food, that had a vacant section that we could use. So our eviction became a blessing-in-disguise that enabled us to increase production dramatically.
Whole Foods® got wind of Honey Pacifica and gave us instant credibility.
They actually sought us out and couldn’t have been nicer, more helpful or more generous. Whatever shortcomings we had in terms of the business side they happily gave us a hand.
As a matter of fact, we were the first all-natural, raw, unfiltered honey product to grace the shelves of Whole Foods, which will always be a great source of pride for us.
Since then, our validation by Whole Foods encouraged other stores to carry us, too, such as Bristol Farms, Gelson’s and Pavilions, along with independent natural-food venues throughout California and Nevada. Please check our Where to Buy Page for all the locations.
Needless to say, we also offer people the chance to shop online and have our honey delivered direct!
How Nina came into my life and changed everything.
My then-future wife grew up on a small farm on an island off South Korea, yet she had a definite entrepreneurial flair. After moving to the U.S., she started a couple of vitamin shops that also carried honey products.
It wasn’t long before Honey Pacifica came across her radar, and she got in touch. Long story short, we connected on multiple levels, which encouraged Nina to finally join us and add her many formidable talents to Honey Pacifica, coming onboard about 10 years ago.
It happened that one of those talents was a natural bent for beekeeping! Not only did Nina dive right in, she excelled at it, infusing the practice with her singular dedication, uncompromising approach and her gift for nurturing the bees themselves.
Clearly, I had married above myself.
So many great people to recognize and thank!
And I’m painfully aware that I will still be leaving out many wonderful folks, but here goes…
A big nod to my brother Frank, whose choice for his high-school science project ‘way back when made everything possible today. (That’s the kind of brother to have!) While not a farmer by nature, he’s a great CPA whom we rely upon to handle all the financials for the company.
Frank is very ably assisted by his amazing wife, Carol. She's our expert paperwork specialist who’s been indispensable when it comes to dealing with the bureaucratic side of the business.
A.G. Kawamura, the brilliant creator of Solutions for Urban Agriculture and co-founder of OC Produce, has given us invaluable mentorship and astute advice over the years. He is, simply, the best.
I’d also like to recognize Jim Butler and Mike Schwenn for their many important contributions over the years. Seems like honey has a way of attracting truly terrific people!
And although my sister Sarah, a school teacher, was never directly involved in Honey Pacifica, she’s always given us much-needed moral support. To this day, Sarah continues to pass along everything she learns from us about honey-making to her students.
Ours, then, is truly a multi-generational family business.
We sense Nick and Jean smiling down on us.
As such, we all try our level best to be good stewards of Honey Pacifica and to further the legacy that our folks so beautifully constructed.
We plan to expand the company’s reach so that more people can enjoy the type of all-natural honey that Nick was so proud of producing. And we’re happy to pay it forward by teaching the younger generation about the art and science of beekeeping through our “Giving Farm” program for high school students.
Thanks for reading our story!