Winona Daily News

By Dustin Kass

RUSHFORD, Minn. — Many Minnesotans who traveled to Washington, D.C., for the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama enjoyed a little taste of home Monday, snacking on locally made treats including honey from Rushford, Minn.

The Minnesota snacks were offered during an open house hosted by U.S. Sen Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., at her office. The spread also featured foods such as kettle corn from Mankato, muffins from Tracy and Spam puffs from Austin, according to Klobuchar’s Web site.
Deb Bruihler bottles honey Monday at her and her husband, John’s, farm in rural Rushford, Minn. The Bruihlers’ honey was featured, along with other treats from Minnesota, in an open house Monday at U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s office in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Melissa Carlo/Winona Daily News)

The event gave Rushford residents John and Debra Bruihler an unexpected role in the inauguration festivites.

Beekeeping has been a lifelong passion for John. He started with two hives in fifth grade, and his operation continued to grow over time, to nearly

450 hives at about 20 different locations in the Rushford area. He oversees the bees, while Debra focuses on bottling the honey and making deliveries, she said.

The couple has primarily provided their products to area orchards and local grocery stores, but their honey stepped into the spotlight after a recent call from Klobuchar’s office.

A staff member contacted the Bruihlers in December for information on their products. Two weeks ago, she called back and ordered six pounds of honey, Debra said. The food was going to be featured at the open house, which was expected to draw hundreds of people.

“I have to say it is exciting,” she said. “It sounded like they were really doing a lot to serve Minnesota food.”

The bees responsible for the attention-grabbing honey will not be basking in glory.

They have already headed to greener pastures n literally.

Rather than housing them through the harsh Minnesota winter, the couple sold the insects to a producer in California, where they are being used for almond pollination. The Bruihlers will purchase new bees in the spring, just as they have in recent years, Debra said.