“Just sit right here, Butch, and the bees won’t bother you.” I’d heard this story before. As my father continues the tale, I imagine my great grandfather, looking somewhat like the old man from the Mountain Dew bottle, leaping in the air and being chased by a cloud of angry bees. “And sit right there I did. Grampa was right, the bees didn’t bother me at all. He ran right past me and the bees chased him all the way down the path, but I didn’t get stung once,” Dad concludes.
This was my first exposure to beekeeping, and never did I imagine myself to be a homesteading, homeschooling mama with a beekeeping business. The only way that I can expain it is that God is good, and sometimes He sneaks up on
In 2007, while I was pregnant with my second son, we found a swarm of bees living in a hollowed out maple tree. The entrance to the hive was near the ground and Jaden (my oldest) and I would sit and watch the bees return with their baskets full of colorful pollen. Later that fall, I read many, many beekeeping books while nursing the baby. The more I learned about bees, the more intrigued I became. The following spring we started a great adventure with our first package of bees.
During the next year, my husband, Joshua, was laid off when the local high school cut the ag program he taught. We also found out we would be welcoming a third son into our family. This was just the nudge we needed to turn our beekeeping hobby into a sideline business.
I spent many delightfully frustrating hours developing our brand, revising labels and product formulations, and coming up with eye catching displays. While I worked at this, my husband, a biologist with experience in wildlife and agriculture, delved into natural hive treatments, integrated pest management techniques, bee genetics, and efficient home remedies for bee stings. Our boys fostered a natural interest in pleasing aesthetics and the scientific process by watching us and helping us work through these things over time. As our boys continued to grow and mature, our business did, too. A clear brand emerged, and our natural beekeeping practices became sound and successful. Soon, we were able to identify our niche. The boys learned this intuitively from speaking with customers at farmers markets. Recognizing our niche helped us to not only identify potential customers, but helped us pin point where to sell and advertise. Being able to choose profitable venues and advertisements increased our sales and helped our bee business continue to grow and expand.
Throughout the last few years, the boys have worked alongside us in the bee yard. They suffered the occasional sting for the privilege of doing what Mom and Dad were doing (and a small smackeral of honey now and then). On the days when the whole family wasn’t going to the farmers market, they debated who should get to wake up at 4:30 AM to go with Dad. Neighboring vendors supposed the boy that got to go had drawn the short straw, it was actually just the opposite. They’re so excited and enthusiastic to share what our family has worked on. They’ve set up our booth, packed up products, and lugged display pieces bigger than they are. Our customers are always impressed with the boys’ maturity, their work ethic, and their knowledge of honeybees and our products. Work ethic, maturity, and business knowledge weren’t purposefully taught to our boys, but they were inferred through the many interactions we share working together.
I don’t think we ever would have dreamed this path for our family. It’s definitely full of mistakes and challenges, but we are so grateful to God for leading us on this adventure. He provides for our family in such interesting and rewarding ways, and blesses us with the opportunity to spend time working, and playing together.