Even though we've met our initial goal (Thank You, Backers!)...we have a lot more we can accomplish together.
So, even though we've reached our goal, we already are making plans to grow our little bee business even more.
Some of the things that we're planning are:
- A honey extractor
- More bees
- Additional equipment (hive boxes, protective gear, tools)
We've been beekeepers for three summers. Starting out as a small hobby to get "out of the house", my wife Cindy and I began with two colonies in the summer of 2011. The setup and planning during the winter months of 2010/2011 were fun and exciting. Here's a blog entry from the "moving in" day in 2011, when I loaded my first bees into their new hives.
The more we read and studied, we realized how important honey bees are to our food supply and to agriculture in general.
A few bee facts:
- Bees have been known to fly up to five miles or more from their hive when foraging.
- The average honey bee will produce about 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey during its life, which is around 6 weeks
- One out of three bites of food are made possible by honey bee pollination.
We had a great summer learning from mentors at two beekeeper's clubs, and harvested about 10 pounds of honey that first year. Hoping that our bees would survive the winter, we left a lot of honey behind for their winter food. They didn't make it.
That winter, we decided to expand our hives, and bought enough equipment and bees during the long winter months to start 8 colonies in the spring! (Each complete hive costs about $300, and a package of bees including a mated queen to costs about $90). The eight colonies grew all summer, each producing some honey, and although a couple of the hives died off (lost queen, robbed out), we were able to harvest about 135 pounds in the fall of 2012.
We decided to hold at 8 colonies for 2013, and not to expand. But we still had to buy 8 new packages of bees costing $90 each to repopulate the hives. Most of those colonies did fine, and we have three hives that were pretty strong going into this winter, and we hope that these 3 colonies survive the harsh Minnesota cold this year.
Our hives are being hosted in three areas. Most of the girls are on an organic dairy farm in Elko/NewMarket, MN. Zweber Farms has been very gracious. Family farm since 1906, they farm 249 acres with about 115 cows. We're also on 10 acres in rolling New Prague, just off Hwy 13, thanks to Cindy and Rick Sanders. And we have one more hive at a fellow beekeeper's yard, across County 42 from us in Prior Lake. Thanks, Don and Sheri.
We were able to sell about 100 pounds of honey to friends and family this fall (thank you), but we're not quite big enough to go to farmers markets yet.
Looking ahead to 2014, we have enough equipment to keep things going, and will be expanding to 9 or 10 colonies. We are going to need to buy packages of honeybees to re-populate the hives, and that's where we're asking for your help.
Our expansion this year will be strictly repopulating 9 - 10 hives with new packages of bees, and we hope that we can split any colonies that survive this winter, to build to 12 or 13 hives.
Our funding is pretty straightforward:
- 8 packages of bees @ $90 = $720
- Amazon/Kickstart fees +/- $100
- Any extra funding we collect will be used towards acquiring an extractor so we can spin our own honey, and not have to depend on renting time on a commercial extractor.
Thank you! And please remember to support your local growers and farmers.
I'm also hoping to be able to produce enough honey from one special yellow hive that I can sell separately this year. I'd like to use the receipts from that honey to help raise funds for kids with Aspergers, in memory of my 33-yr old son Will who died in September 2012. Thank you.
Risks and challenges
As with any agriculture, we're pretty much at the mercy of the weather. Too wet, too cold, too hot, too dry ... these factors all affect flowering plants, and therefore bee populations. We're also at the mercy of pesticides and farming/landscape practices. We are doing our part to help keep the honey bee population strong, and the bees are rewarding us with delicious Scott County Minnesota honey. As a fourth-year beekeeper, I have learned an enormous amount from new friends, conferences, classes, and first-hand in the bee yard. I love the bees, and want to pass some of that along.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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