CANTON - When I covered Farm Fresh Friday recently in Canton, I never expected to find someone with a White House connection.

During the program, Royal Draper of Draper's Super Bee Apiaries near Millerton was speaking to kindergarten students in the Canton Elementary School Theaterette.

He talked about the queen bee, worker bees, and, of course, honey. The children were buzzing with excitement.

After the presentation was over, I interviewed him about his business. I was surprised to find out that Royal directly supplied honey to the White House for more than two decades, from 1980 up until about two years after 9/11.

"It was awesome," he said. "It was like a feather in our cap, no doubt."

Originally, Royal's honey was provided to the White House through a distributor.

But then the distributor switched to imported honey from China.

According to Royal, that didn't sit well with the head chef at the White House.

"He called us, and he wanted to know if he could buy it directly," Royal recalled. "We said, 'absolutely.'"

Royal thought perhaps the head chef liked his honey's flavor and "wanted to stick with what he knew" or maybe wanted to stay with domestic honey.

Looking back, Royal said his honey was used by the head chef to make fancy desserts and also in coffee and tea.

"They typically ordered 48 pounds every month to two months," he said. Royal shipped the honey by UPS directly to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Royal was fascinated by the idea of presidents dining on his honey, from Ronald Reagan all the way up to George W. Bush, not to mention diplomats.

According to Royal, the White House stopped using his honey after 9/11 for security reasons.

Following the terrorist attacks, the White House didn't want anyone in the public knowing the source of anything going to the White House, he said. Things were then ordered differently, he added.

Royal said it was an honor that the White House chose his honey over other honey sources.

Royal knew that the presidents tried his honey because the head chef told him.

"He would say, 'they like it in their tea,'" he recalled.

Parenthetically, he noted that the Obamas have their own bee hive.

As to what presidents liked his honey the best, Royal thought that he shipped more honey to the White House during President Clinton's term than any other.

"I look back on it as a great honor," he said. "It was quite the experience to get the call and seeing it come in. It actually said 'The White House' on our caller ID."

You can read more about Royal's business at www.draperbee.com

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