“Who doesn’t love honey?” asked Richard Stewart, who talked about the trials and joys of beekeeping at the eighth annual Journey to Local Sustainable Food Conference, which was sponsored by the Food and Growers Association of Laughery Valley and Environs Feb. 8 at the Batesville Intermediate School cafeteria.
The former package designer is a sixth-generation farmer at Carriage House Farm, North Bend, Ohio. In addition to producing 12,000 pounds of produce, 4,000 pounds of honey and 150 pounds of pollen each year on 300 acres, workers there board horses and give tours so visitors can actually view the hives.
“Bee hives are a fantastic art form,” Stewart remarks. In Europe, they tell Biblical stories and family histories in wood cuts and paintings on the fronts of the insects’ nests.
When tending to bees, “our biggest problem is poor weather conditions,” the farmer contends. “Since I’ve started, no year has been the same as the year previous. Last year was a fantastic year – the summer was awesome. You remember what 2012 was like: It was a horrible drought.”
For novices, he recommends an area club (please see box) and two excellent books, “Beekeeping for Dummies” by Howland Blackiston and Kim Flottum and “Natural Beekeeping” by Ross Conrad, who also can be viewed giving advice online.
Stewart discussed the essentials in getting started. “January and February is a good time to buy bees .... “You want to have two hives.” He explains, “If one is weak, you can pull (bees) from the stronger hive.”
Beginners should count on spending $500-$600. Each hive will cost $200-$300 plus equipment, which includes a bee suit. The speaker suggests partnering with other beekeepers on honey harvesting equipment. Persons can buy used equipment online, but “that can be kind of sketchy. You could be inheriting somebody else’s problems.” Perhaps those bees had a disease and the equipment still is contaminated.