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We are the product of FOUR GENERATIONS of beekeeping and we find ourselves BLESSED to be among our buzzing friends. We are located in Southern Georgia and sell Italian and Carniolan Queens, Nuc Hives and Three Pound Packages. We also sell raw and infused honey, hot sauce, organic herbs, spices and more.
I assure you that nothing is worse than a sixteen year old boy spending his summers working in the bee yards. Between the South Georgia heat and the stings from occupants of the hives I would intrude, I learned a few cuss words that Dad would have killed me over had I muttered them out loud.
In my youth, I didn’t have the appreciation my father had for bees and what they did. It was only a little later in life that I learned what a huge impact that bees make on this planet and that farmers can’t deliver food to us without them.
Dad started as a hobbyist with just a few hives. I think his interest of bees came from talking to his mom and finding that his late father had kept bees. It was believed that grandfather’s hives were actually rows of hollowed out tree stumps that he placed flat on the ground and put wooden lids on. Our startup wasn’t much better. Dad’s innovative ways to build rocket ships out of duct tape produced some very interesting hives and equipment.
We pretty much did everything by hand. Dad was big and strong too. Unlike all the other local beekeepers with small eight frame boxes, Dad’s boxes held ten frames. They were more bulky and heavy but Dad managed without a problem. I, on the other hand, struggled to keep up. Dad taught me the importance of checking the hive. He taught me how to look for simple things and that by simply observing that the bees would tell you what they needed.
As I grew older, I would watch bees drink nectar from the flowers and even lie down by the hives to observe the bees coming in for the day. You could see the pollen clearly all over their legs. It was during those days that I remembered all Dad had taught me about what great pollinators bees really are. I learned through him that they only will work one set of plant or flower species at a time, how queens mate in the air, the life span of a worker bee, what brood looked like in the hive and how to tell if a hive was diseased or weak.
Dad decided a few years later to build a larger building as we had increased to over 500 hives. He retired from his job of 30 plus years to become a full time commercial beekeeper. He not only chased a single crop of honey anymore. He now pursued three crops, pollinated for farmers and local orchards and began raising queen bees to sell to other beekeepers. Dad was officially in the bee business.
Our first commercial farmers that reached out to us were citrus farmers. South Florida has a huge concentration of citrus groves and they depend on honey bees to help pollinate those crops. The honey we made, Orange Blossom, was also a premium honey. It sold at a much higher price than did the local wildflower honey we produced.
It was amazing to watch Dad grow his business. From pollinating cucumbers, squash and blueberries locally, Dad was now sending bees deep into Florida for citrus groves, north to Wisconsin to pollinate cranberries and to the west coast in California for almond groves. Dad’s business was pretty impressive for what once was just a small little beekeeper working out of a spare space in his wood shop at home.
In learning the bee business alongside my father, I also learned a lot about him. As a kid, I can remember him working late to extract honey and the way he would hold the jars of the amber liquid to the light and admire his labor. It was important to Dad as the quality of what he produced. He explained to me what happens to honey when it’s processed or “heated” and said that’s why he would always produce and sell raw honey only. He taught me the importance of honey from a health stand point as well. He would always tell me, “A spoon of local, raw honey a day will help fight allergies and colds”. When we would cough at night as kids, we received a spoon full of honey to suppress it. We used it in the home to bake with and to sweeten tea, coffee and even cereal. I even found out the best thing to put on a bee sting. Yes, you guessed it, honey.
As a beekeeper, Dad became very involved in local functions in his industry and got to know many beekeepers in our area. It wasn’t long that Dad made fast friends with people far and near. Back in those days, families helped each other so when one family would need help with their crop, four or five families may show up to get the work done. Dad loved learning about bees but more so, Dad loved teaching about bees. Many people wanting to get into the industry would come to my father and he would allow them to join him in his hives and in the building where the honey was extracted and bottled or barreled.
The honey business was a competitive business like any other. However, Dad’s believed in, “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.” Even though he knew those young beekeepers may be selling their products in the same marketplace as him, Dad always took time to help others.
My Dad retired last year and handed down the company to my sister and her husband. Both of them have the same passion and work ethic my Dad had while active in the business and it shows. They produce beautiful local wildflower honey and raise queens for beekeepers all across the nation.
Dad still goes down to the “honey house” and gets involved. He is a wealth of knowledge on everything bees. His retirement, however, doesn’t really suit him. You see, Dad still has the same passion for bees as he did four decades ago. I sometimes think he has honey in his veins. As we were returning from a trip last week, he pointed out the local wildflowers blooming beside the road and made a statement that the bees would love those blooms.
As I sit here drinking my coffee this morning, a lone honey bee shows up early to begin working the dandelions near my porch. I smile as I realize my love for these little guys come from a man that taught me more about life than I’ll ever know. Maybe, just maybe, my veins are filled with honey too. Happy Harvest in your hives friends!
May God continue to bless you and keep you and yours safe and well!
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