Four years ago, Karen Greenstein was looking for a way to simultaneously support the environment and adults with autism.
Greenstein, who has a son with autism, decided to take a leap, buy some bees and get into the honey business.
Based in Tempe, Rango Honey produces raw, natural honey while providing job training and support for autistic adults. Its profits also fund Neshama, an assisted living community for people 18 and older with autism. Neshama means “soul” in Hebrew.
“It’s [rewarding] seeing these young adults have a purposeful role,” says Laura Jandl, Neshama’s executive director. “Every single student down here has a job, whether it’s putting a label on or putting it in a box or actually using the machines to fill the honey, every student has a valued role… and I think that’s the coolest thing to see.”
Though the work they do is gratifying, it doesn’t come without obstacles. Marty Rittman, Rango’s sales operation manager, says education is a big part of his job.
“First of all, we have not discovered a new product. There’s a lot of people that produce honey out there,” he says. “Raw, natural honey like ours, it has a unique taste and it’s much different, so there’s a lot of education that has to go on and we spend a lot of our time educating people on the advantages of raw, natural honey.”
Rango Honey is sourced from the Sonoran Desert and isn’t boiled, filtered or mixed with other ingredients, which makes it prone to crystallization and thickening. Rittman says sometimes it needs to be put under warm water to come out.
“That’s just how natural honey works,” he says. “If it comes in a Teddy bear and it pours, it’s not raw, natural honey.”
Rango Honey has four flavors: Clover-Alfalfa, Desert Bloom, Mesquite and Orange Blossom. All four varietals are available at Valley retailers as well as chains like Bashas’ and Ace Hardware.
“The way we get different varietals or flavors is simply the flowers that the bees are feeding on,” says Heather Blackford, Rango’s operations manager. “If you think about how grape influences wine, color, aroma, taste, that’s exactly how the flower and the nectar is to honey.”
Blackford says 80 percent of U.S. honey is clover or alfalfa. “Most people resonate with that flavor,” she says. The Desert Bloom honey has a more floral flavor, while the Mesquite has a rich, caramel taste. The Orange Blossom honey, in which the bees predominantly feed in citrus groves, is “a very sweet, very smooth honey and very reminiscent of summer days and nights.”
Rango Honey offers samples at its Tempe storefront. Honeycomb and bee pollen are also available for purchase. Blackford says honeycomb is a healthy snack ideal for charcuterie boards and bee pollen is a superfood that helps with allergies, energy levels and digestion.
“We also just came out with an organic tea that has fennel and orange peel in it and we paired it with our Orange Blossom honey,” Blackford says. “It goes amazingly well [together], makes great gifts, of course, and in this cooler weather, is very soothing.”
The next step in the Rango Honey journey is to continue to grow and give back to the community.
“We’re happy to spread the pure, unadulterated honey that we have and be able to share that and incorporate that into safe and nurturing working conditions for adults with disabilities,” Blackford says.
364 S. Smith Rd., Tempe