Three years ago, Larisa Rus had an idea.
Her parents kept bees as a hobby, and Rus says that at one point her family had so much honey, they didn’t know what to do with it.
“I said to them, ‘What if I create a brand that speaks to that to try to create awareness of [bee-related] issues?’” Rus said.
Today, she is the founder and owner of her family-run business Bee Green Honey, a staple at the weekly Trojan Farmers Market since she started the company in 2014.
Since then, Rus has also participated in the Larchmont and Bank of America farmers markets.
“It’s like a home here,” Rus said. “We enjoy our customers, our regulars. We’re going to keep coming here as long as we have this honey.”
Through Bee Green Honey, Rus focuses on sustainability as well as giving back to the bees and the environment. She does so by paying customers a dollar for every jar they return after using all of the honey and speaking with students about current issues regarding bees when they stop by the table.
“I’m surprised that a lot of students are aware of what’s happening with bees,” Rus said. “They seem to know about bee collapse disorder and the declining bee population. We try to answer many questions [and] give knowledge about bees and what it takes for the bees to produce honey.”
Rus also explained that her brand’s flavored honey is 100 percent natural.
“Different flavors are [from] different farms that have different crops,” Rus said. “[People] think you add an essence or something in it [but] in fact, it is the bee pollinating the orange blossom tree or the raspberry patch or alfalfa fields.”
To create different flavors, the family members arrange to take their hives to the farms of different crops for the bees to pollinate. Alfalfa and orange blossom flavors are normally available year-round, while sunflower and raspberry tend to be seasonal.
“We are a smaller operation, so when we run out of honey we won’t always sell the same flavors,” Rus said. “The sunflower and the raspberry we don’t always have and when we don’t have them, everybody’s emailing, ‘When [are] you going to have it back?’”
The honey is extracted from the hives two to three times a year, usually in April and October. To withdraw the honey, Rus and her family check on frames from inside of the honey extraction machine and evaluate which frames are ready to be removed based on how full they are. The extricated honey is finally placed in the labeled bottles, leaving it completely natural.
Rus says she is careful that the bees are treated well. She makes sure that they are taken to organic farms for pollination to avoid pesticides and other harmful substances and ensures that during the extraction of the honey some is left for the bees to survive over the winter.
In addition to balancing her business, Rus also works a full-time job at an architecture firm.
“We try to do as much as we can,” Rus said. “My parents are the ones who actually go and do all the farming work and I go and help with extracting, bottling and the labels. My uncle and my aunt usually do the markets.”
Rus hopes to continue selling at farmers markets rather than opening a store.
“[A store] requires more honey to be processed and you have to make a lot more honey that I’m not sure is going to be as pure and as good,” Rus said. “We’re trying to avoid that because we believe in the extraction part, bottling it ourselves and knowing what goes in there.”
Over her years in the business, Rus has developed friendly relationships with members of the USC community.
“This is one market we’ve kept for three years continuously,” Rus said. “We kind of made a good customer base mixed with students, faculty and administrators.”