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Our Education, Experience and Passion

 
 
 

John Just, Food Industry Quality Assurance and Research Director

John graduated from South Dakota State University with a degree in Dairy Science.  He has worked in the dairy food industry since 1977 as a Production Manager and/or a Quality Assurance and Research Director.  His current Quality Assurance responsibilities are essential to ensuring superior quality in the manufacturing of dairy products. 

Valerie Just, Financial Industry Risk Consultant

Valerie graduated from South Dakota State University in 1978 with a degree in Agronomy; minors in both Biology and Botany.  For the last 24 years, she has worked in the executive offices of a financial industry company in numerous managerial and single-contributor roles, including escalated Customer Experience Recovery, as well as Quality Assurance/Operational Risk.  Currently, Valerie is a Operational Risk Consultant, analyzing operational processes to control and mitigate risk, ensuring that the processes provide a stellar customer experience while mitigating regulatory, litigation and operational risk for the company.    

How Does Our Education and Experience Impact You?

John's experience in the food industry ensures our extraction and packaging process has been developed from a stellar quality-assurance-based food industry process - you can be assured that quality control is our number one priority.    

Valerie's experience in customer experience roles places high regard on your customer experience the first time, and every time.  As consumers ourselves, John and I have high expectations, and we want to deliver on those same expectations when working with you. 

 

We know it is all about attention to details - so care has been taken to ensure: 

  1. We employ a food-industry quality assurance process to deliver on our commitment to a safe and consistent product for you and your family.   

  2. If you ever need to contact us, an appropriate sense of urgency will be applied as we attend to your needs.  Our goal is satisfied customers - and we will do whatever it takes to achieve that goal. 

  3. The packaging of the product supports the quality of the product inside the bottle. 

  4. The products can be packaged in a colorful bag and bow, with a business card and education materials.  If you are giving the honey as a gift, no further attention is required from you for presentation of your gift. 

  5. Through research, we know that the best packaging product for honey is glassware.  Glassware is more expensive, but it is also environmentally friendly, and healthier for our customers.  We promote environmental stewardship, and offer 25 cents for each jar that is returned to us.  If the jar is a half-gallon mason jar, we offer 50 cents for each jar that is returned to us.   ​

  6. We offer several varietals of honey.  Doing so is more labor intensive; however, we want to provide the best possible experience for our customers.  

We are here to EDUCATE!

  • ​We have prepared inserts that come with our product that assist you in storage and usage of honey, honeycomb, creamed honey and elderberry tonic. 

  • ​We provide recipe cards so you have a variety of ways to use your honey in healthy and wholesome recipes. 

  • ​We provide free native plant seeds so you can 'thank a pollinator' and make a difference in our ecosystem.  

  • ​We are trying to fulfill your needs on our website - offering education and insight into our bees, our products, how you can make a difference!

Our Journey

John and I have been environmentalists for as long as I can remember.  We ensured that we were role models for our children, demonstrating that each person had an obligation to protect our natural resources, and that decisions that we make during our lifetime have a direct correlation on the health of our eco-system. 

In the 1980's, when my sons were young, we would go to a neighboring prairie field, find common milkweed that were supporting Monarch caterpillars, and take some of the caterpillars home.  The caterpillars were plentiful at this time; Monarch butterflies were not endangered.  We would put the milkweed and caterpillars in a Ball canning jar, and replace the milkweed as needed.  This provided my sons the opportunity to see the glorious transformation (and life cycle) from caterpillar to our beloved Monarch butterfly.  These experiences helped us develop a passion for the Monarchs that continues today, and was a catalyst in offering native plant seed to anyone that wishes to make a difference.  

 

My husband’s uncle was a beekeeper for years in southern Minnesota – we visited them occasionally, and my husband, John, would talk about his uncle’s beekeeping hobby.  My interest was piqued; however, it took decades before I would act. 

The years passed quickly, and the end of 2013 was a time of reflection - for the past 31 years, my primary focus was my family and my day job.  I hadn't had time to focus on personal goals; my time was spent meeting the needs of my family and my employer.  I had an epiphany that it was time to heed my inner voice and start working on personal aspirations.  I signed up for the Polk County Master Gardner program offered by the Iowa State University extension office and completed that program in 2014.  This was an important factor, for as we all know, bees and flowers have a symbiotic relationship!!  I dedicated time and effort to converting a significant portion of my landscape gardens to native plants that promote our pollinators, including our beloved Monarch butterfly.  I registered my gardens with the Monarch Watch society as a Monarch waystation - a habitat that supports the conservation of the Monarch butterflies. 

For the last ten years or so, I had been reading articles that the pollinators were in trouble - that pollinator populations were declining.  It was time for me to give back to nature, and do my small part in protecting one of our natural resources, the honey bees.  In January 2015, John and I took a beginner beekeeping class  from our state apiarist, Andy Joseph, and we were enamored.  We ordered two bee packages from a commercial beekeeper in Iowa and the packages were delivered in April 2015.  

Beekeeping is not a hobby for the faint-hearted - the path to good beekeeping is often paved with stingers!  Beekeeping is hard work - it requires  organizational planning, a drive to learn, as well as mentoring support and a financial investment.  The nature of the work is hot, sticky, heavy and sometimes frustrating - and no matter how much you read, it comes down to hands-on-experience.  We have had many lessons learned over the past five years - and we have discovered it takes time to become proficient, knowledgeable and skilled at beekeeping.  I know that our knowledge progression will continue for many years to come. 


We are starting our sixth year of beekeeping, and we continue to love this work - bees are awe-inspiring creatures.  I was the instigator of this journey, but I am so grateful that John agreed to support and contribute to this endeavor - it would have been difficult without such a responsive partner.  I discovered our second year of beekeeping that I am very allergic to not only honey bees, but many other bees and wasps.  I carry EpiPens everywhere I go; I've also been taking bee venom therapy for the last three years.  

 

We started beekeeping because we are passionate about our environment and want to give back to a weakened ecosystem in a small way.  We have experienced a glorious return on our investment - our own honey and the ability to make our own lip balm and lotions.  We have also met passionate and generous people along the way - we are grateful for all of the new relationships we have cultivated and continue to develop as we progress with this endeavor.   People truly want to do the right things for their families now and for generations to come, as well as do the right things for the environment. 

 

This journey continues to be rewarding and we hope to promote beekeeping and the conservation and protection of our pollinators for many years to come.  More importantly, we have developed a passion for these creatures that have so much to teach us. 

 

Together, we can make a difference on the state of our environment, which ultimately leads to the ability of our pollinators to sustain the species. In order to maintain the diversity of our natural eco-systems, we need healthy pollinator populations to ensure the next generation of plants will be produced. Start small, and gradually progress in your journey to do the right things for our pollinators and our eco-systems.  Remember, the decisions you make today and during your lifetime have a direct correlation on the health of our environment for future generations to come. 

 

I will leave you with my favorite quotes:

 

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  Margaret Mead

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”  Mahatma Gandhi

Valerie Just

 
 

Just Iowa Honey

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Just Iowa Honey

4609 Crestmoor Drive

Des Moines, Iowa

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