Our Story

Our Honey

Z Specialty Food takes time in processing honey, keeping intact the healthy benefits, precious enzymes, and volatile color, flavor and aromas. Z Specialty Food's honey is minimally warmed, and minimally strained; just enough to make sure there's no dirt or bee parts floating in your beautiful jar!

Read our FAQ's for more specifics on how we do what we do!

Who is Z Specialty Food?

We are genuine old school lovers of the earth. We set ourselves apart from the crowd by offering products made with simple, natural ingredients; Pure Honey, Dried Fruit, Nuts, and of course...Chocolate! Easy. Simple. Delicious.

Z Specialty Food is proud of the relationships that we form with our customers, our suppliers, our crew, and of course...nature. We marvel at the way nature works; not only within the beehive, but throughout the universe. These intricate connections are what make our business possible. Z Specialty Food treasures the gifts of our earth and does whatever we can to make our impact in this world positive and regenerative.

Here are a few ways we keep pachamama (A latin american concept of Mother Earth) happy:

  • Our system for processing honey yields zero waste
  • Offer our honey and other products to you in as natural a state as possible
  • Meticulously conserve our planet's non-renewable resources
  • Ship with one goal in mind: Getting our product to you in one piece! That means your package may not look pretty, but we hope you appreciate that we are reusing all manner of packaging to minimize waste. 
  • Z Specialty Food is a designated local drop off for consumers looking to recycle packaging such as: styrofoam, paper & bubble wrap!
  • Most of our packing materials are recycled or reused
  • We like biking to work (Up to 15 miles each way!)
  • Many of us garden, recycle and compost with vermicompost in our home gardens

Our Story

Old Store 2We have a great story and we're not afraid to share it! So sit back, relax, and enjoy!

It all started in 1955 in the dead of winter, in Buffalo, New York. The only certified wild game dealer between Chicago & New York, Zeldner's Wild Game Center was hitting it's stride when 8-year old Ishai Zeldner joined the family business. The store was opened in 1926 by his grandmother and 10-year old father, while his grandfather continued a career as a potter at Buffalo Pottery. For over 50 years, their market served the people of Buffalo with a standard grocery selection, fresh produce, meats and growing specialty sections of soul food and wild game. "You name it, we sold it," remarks Ishai Zeldner.

Fresh out of college in his early 20's, Ishai decided to pursue adventure by living on a Kibbutz in Israel. For nine months, six days a week were split between learning Hebrew and working in many areas on the kibbutz. He arrived in Israel, quickly finding his way to the place he would call home, filled with the people he would call family; Kibbutz Beit HaShita, a cooperative community with a unique history. The kibbutz specialized in the production of several agricultural products, including fish, cattle, cotton, melon grapefruit, olives, and...honey!

Old Store 3On the Kibbutz, all members shared the burden of work, whether it be harvesting, food preparation, or childcare. Ishai was no exception, and spent time "harvesting fish from their frigid cold fish ponds, stomping cotton using [our] bodies to cram down the voluminous spongy cotton balls, hand picking olives all day long on tall ladders, picking grapefruits early on a winter's cool morning, the rain dripping from the leaves, soaking whatever we wore, and moving bees in the wee hours of the night." Here, Ishai would find both a long-time friend and mentor, Yusuf Gidron, a veteran beekeeper. His future career path had begun. It was an opportunity to learn beekeeping from a master, and Ishai worked with and learned from Yusuf throughout four bee seasons. When asked about his half century love affair with honeybees, Ishai remarks, "my mentor kept bees 'til he was 90. That's my role model!"

In 1978, Ishai worked as a commercial beekeeper in Northern California, finding a mentor in Clarence Wenner, a legendary master beekeeper and queen breeder. In 1979, he drove the Zeldner store's old delivery van across the country to study at one of the most well-established honey bee research facilities in the country, University of California at Davis. He attended classes in queen rearing, beekeeping and agriculture.

During his time at UC Davis, Ishai began giving away more honey than he could afford. Upon reflection, he thought about selling some honey to compensate for the gifts. Thus, Moon Shine Trading Company was started with 180 lbs of pure Yellow Star Thistle Honey packed in canning jars. The first bottling and labeling was done in his front yard with help from many friends. In May of 1980, Ishai moved to Winters, CA to soak up the country life. He began to bottle Moon Shine Trading Company's California Yellow Star Thistle Honey at his home on an abandoned apricot orchard outside of town. This entrepreneur is not without a special love interest; Amina Harris moved out to Winters in 1981 to join Ishai and follow her own craftiness as an incredible seamstress and soft sculpture artist! She hand-cut the fabric that decorated Moon Shine Trading Company's first pint, quart and half gallon jars!

In 1982, Amina Harris & Ishai Zeldner were married. Their first child, Shoshana, followed, at which point Moon Shine Trading Company was happily at home in a 1500 square-foot warehouse in downtown Winters.

The next big development in the history of our business (family!) came with the birth of Josh in 1986. Known around here as Nectar Director, he currently runs the operational side of Z Specialty Food's buzzing business. One of his favorite activities includes collaborating on honey brews with breweries and meaderies locally and throughout the country! Josh loves growing his own food, backpacking, backcountry snowboarding, ultimate frisbee, and launching off cliffs into the Yuba River.

As local, national & international support for Moon Shine Trading Company's family of products grew, so did the need to find a new home. After a long search throughout Yolo County, we moved into a 4,000 square foot commercial space in Woodland, CA. With this huge increase in square footage, we never thought we would fill it up! But after just 15 quick years we were bursting at the seams. Just in time, our neighbors moved out and we were able to expand. All of the magic happens right here in our 9,000 square foot facility in Woodland, CA. You are invited to tour anytime, especially during our fall and winter open houses.

Now, over 35 years later, we are the same family operating Z Specialty Food. Moon Shine Trading Company is now one of three brands owned and operated by us at Z Specialty Food, LLC.

Josh making honey beer with a local brewery!

Preschool honey tasting (circa 1993)

Amina & Shoshi

Island of the Moon Apiaries

epson012Right around the same time that Ishai was starting up Moon Shine Trading Company, Jerry Kaplan and Randy Byrne were packing honey under the name Island of the Moon Apiaries in the rural agricultural community of Esparto, California.

They specialized in high quality varietal and wildflower honeys from throughout California. When Jerry was ready to go back to fixing up vintage motorcycles, Moon Shine Trading Company took the reins. To this day, we are beaming proud that Island of the Moon Apiaries Honey is so well-respected and appreciated, locally and internationally.

 

Cowboy Caviar All Natural Fresh Vegetable Spreads

You may ask...how did we move from honey to Cowboy Caviar, those all natural fresh vegetable spreads?

We have always loved great food. Back in the 1980's when our business had just begun, we met wonderful people who were also venturing into the food business with boutique, not mass marketed, products. Cowboy Caviar was one of those; a product that our family has loved ever since its beginning. When the brand came up for sale in the early 2000's, we had a sincere and deep interest in continuing to offer this healthy & tasty snack to our many loyal customers.