Nicole Medina was recently named the 2019 American Honey Princess, the first time a New Jersey resident has earned the honor. She was the 2018 New Jersey Honey Queen and her new role will allow her to travel around the country to promote the importance of honey bees. The Sussex County resident and Newton High School graduate traveled to the Florida State Fair earlier this month to represent the industry.
“It’s wonderful that we have someone from New Jersey who will be an ambassador in educating the public about the importance of honey bees for society,” NJDA Secretary Douglas Fisher said. “Nicole has extensive experience with honey bees and fully understands the essential role they play in agriculture.”
Medina, who is a student at Sussex County College, has been a beekeeper for six years. She and her father Joel Medina currently have 11 hives. Like some, Medina had concerns about getting stung when she started handling bees at age 13, but that fear has long since been alleviated.
“I’ve only been stung once in my lifetime,” she said. “Honey bees don’t want to sting you because if they do they will die. Honey bees are gentle. They don’t want to hurt us.”
Medina said she was apprehensive during the competition at the American Beekeeping Federation Conference in Myrtle Beach. But her expertise in beekeeping helped her stand out.
“I was extremely nervous going into the banquet,” she said. “I had been working for this for so long, it was almost surreal that it happened. It’s a knowledge-based competition. You have to have at least basic bee knowledge and they also evaluate you as a presenter and on interacting with the public.”
That interaction during the next year is something Medina is anticipating.
“They told me that normally there will be about 340 days away from home,” she said. “I can’t wait to get out and see the country.”
Because of the extensive travel, Medina shares the spokesperson role with American Honey Queen Hannah Sjostrom of Wisconsin.
“We do hit all 50 states and we are trying to go everywhere that requests us,” she said. “We are co-equals and there is a lot of work to do.”
Medina is currently studying business at Sussex County College and then hopes to continue her education at Rowan University in Gloucester County and major in marketing and communications. But regardless of where she goes, Medina is confident bees will be a part of the future, too.
“I plan on keeping bees as a hobby no matter where I go,” she said. “I really have a passion for it and no matter where I end up, I’ll have some in my backyard.”