- Animal Products: honey
- Farm Business Management: farmers' markets/farm stands, marketing management
- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems
To harvest honey and make it a branded product and to provide the community the opportunity to purchase a local natural product that is healthy for you. The product will focus on the medicinal benefits of honey, especially the effect it has on seasonal allergies.
In our local community, there are not a lot of opportunities for people to purchase products which are locally produced. This grant provided the opportunity for people to purchase a local product that is natural and healthy for you. The product of honey is uniquely viable and is used in many things, such as, food products, beauty products, and natural remedies. Keeping bees also has more attributes other than harvesting honey. Honey bees work for the local environment to ensure plant pollination.
This grant also assisted with providing the materials in the production, harvesting and marketing of honey. It assisted with opportunities with direct marketing at local establishments. It also provided the opportunity to offer pollination services to farms in the surrounding area. Lastly, this grant assisted with research and education, and provided literature on the benefits and uses of locally-produced honey.
The goal of this project was to produce a value-added product that is harvested locally and to market it within the local community. When established, we planned to make our honey a branded product that would lead to a full time retail farming operation. We wanted our product to focus on the medicinal benefits of honey, especially the effect it has on seasonal allergies. The honey was to be called Honeybee Hollow brand honey offered in 8 and 16 ounce bottles. These bottles were to be square glass with a black lid, closely resembling that of an old time medicine jar. On the 16 ounce jars a metal spoon was to be included. It was to be attached to the neck of the bottle with a string. This was to add to the old time medicinal look. The labels were to resemble an old fashioned "cure-all" label. The label was to have antique type font and a coffee stained look, giving the appearance of being aged.
The first thing we did to get started with our project was to contact the Washington County Bee Inspectors, Jacob and Cheryl Meyers. Jacob agreed to begin mentoring us on beekeeping. Jacob explained to us what equipment we would need and where to start. After purchasing the equipment, bees, and materials needed, we began our venture into the world of beekeeping. We were able to buy some of the equipment used, which allowed us to purchase more hives to begin with. We set our hives at our house to get them started. Once established we were able to move some of them to two local farms, Stacy's Berry Farm and Huck's Pumpkin Farm. Once the hives were set, we would do checks on them periodically. The checks would include, checking for a queen, checking to see if the queen was laying eggs, checking the number of bees in the hives, checking for any signs of disease, and checking for signs of foraging.
During this building up time, we would research the health and allergy attributes of honey. We used various books, the Internet, and discussed the subject with many different beekeepers. We also used this time to begin a beekeeping journal. This journal would compile all of our experiences so that the overall outcome could be measured at the end of the year. We also kept track of expenditures and profits to help keep track of our progress and later to be used to complete our taxes.
At harvest time in the Fall, Jacob taught us how to do an end of the year hive check and how to judge how much honey to take off. After the honey was harvested, we were shown how to winterize the colonies. We were able to complete hands-on learning with decapping and extraction. This made it much easier when it came time for us to do it as well. The last step in the process was bottling and labeling our crop.
Of the twenty-two hives the producer started with, nineteen hives have survived, while three hives were lost due to failure to thrive. Of these hive bodies, all were saved and will be put back into production in the spring. All of the remaining hives are currently producing honey, however most of the honey will have to be left on the hives to serve as food for the bees during the winter. This was due to an abnormally dry summer with little to no rainfall. The dry conditions led to low nectar production and low water levels in area creeks and ponds. Water is necessary for bees to process nectar into the end product of honey.
Now that the honey was ready to be bottled, we decided to speak with some of the local beekeepers about our bottle choice. After speaking to the beekeepers, we decided to change our bottle choice from the old fashioned bottle to honey bears, pints, and quarts. We decided that the old fashioned bottle was not cost efficient and that we would have to increase the price of the honey to cover the bottle cost. The beekeepers also stated that local people would not be impressed by a fancier bottle. They were more interested in the amount of honey they could get for their money. After speaking to the beekeepers we also decided to change the name of our honey. The original name we had picked out was Honeybee Hollow brand honey. We decided on the name Stone Bridge Farm brand honey. The new name not only sounds more professional, but still attains the locally produced feel to it.
Now that our honey was bottled, we needed to sell it. First, we contacted several local establishments about carrying our honey in their stores. We found that most establishments already had local honey in their stores. The ones that did not already carry local honey wanted to carry it on consignment. This is not an option for us at this time due to just starting out. Next we wanted to try setting up a booth at a local farmer's market. We chose the Parkersburg Farmer's Market Place. This went well for several weeks then sales went down. We found that the management was not advertising the market as they had previously stated they would. Currently, we have been participating in local fairs and festivals as an outlet for our honey. This has worked out well. We sold out of our 2007 honey very quickly and we have orders for people wanting more honey at all times. We found that when we discussed the medicinal effect honey has on local allergy sufferers, our sales would increase. The vast majority of people purchasing our honey were purchasing it for just that reason. Last, we decided to purchase a URL (www.stonebridge-farm.com), and begin working on a website. Due to the increased number in honey orders and sales, we have hastened the production of the website. Hopefully, it will be completed by the end of November 2008. The website will include information on our honey products, the medicinal purposes of honey, a blog, and information on the SARE grant and our experiences with it.
COMPARISON AND COST TRACKING
When we began this project we expected to harvest 525 pounds of honey the first year. The final tally measured out at 120 pounds of honey. The major problem we encountered was the weather. The summer was very hot and dry, with little rainfall. The dry weather produced fewer flowers. The flowers produced less nectar. Crops and flowers produced less pollen. Honeybees did not get the water they needed to produce much honey. Since the honey production decreased, so did the revenue. We generated 63% less revenue than expected. The initial start up cost of this project is obviously much larger than the yearly running of the honey business. The yearly cost is only 20% in the initial cost. The revenue generated the first year turned out to be 5% of the start up cost. We have estimated that having an average year with no weather abnormalities, and adding a 25% increase to hive numbers each year, we will turn a profit in at least three years.
The producer bought the equipment that was needed to complete the project. By purchasing some of the equipment used, she was able to obtain much more needed equipment than she had originally thought she could. The producer had intended on starting with only seven hives, but through donations she was able to begin with twenty hives. She also was able to acquire two established hives from a retiring beekeeper as well.
We accomplished the advertising goals in the form of a business card, brochure, handout, labels, logo design, and website.
We also obtained a West Virginia and Ohio business license and vendors’ license, as well as liability insurance.
We are currently working to establish Stone Bridge Farm brand honey throughout the community through farmer's markets, fairs and festivals, local contacts, honey placement, and the website.
- Parkersburg Farmer's Market, Parkersburg WV --- 1800 people reached.
- WV Honey Festival, Parkersburg WV--- 1500 people reached.
- Harvest Moon Festival, Parkersburg WV--- 2500 people reached.
- Volcano Days, Mountwood Park, Dallison WV--- 1500 people reached.
- Apple Butter Stir Off, Belpre OH---500 people reached.
- Octoberfest, Lowell OH---2500 people reached.
- Black Walnut Festival, Spencer WV---3500 people reached.
- Ohio Valley University Craft Show, Vienna WV--- 100 people reached.
- Williamstown High School Craft Show, Williamstown WV--- 1500 people
- Warren High School Craft Show, Vincent OH---3000 people reached.
***We are booked up through December 6th...they are listed on the website.
We attended the 2008 WV Honey Festival in Parkersburg, West Virginia. We entered our honey in a taste contest. There were twelve honey farms entered in the competition. Our honey won the People's Choice Award for the Best Tasting Honey. We felt very humbled and honored to win such a contest in our first year in the beekeeping business. This award has also helped to strengthen our business's reputation.
While we are just beginning our venture into the world of beekeeping, we feel that by offering our honey into the local market, we have met a much in demand need. Our contribution does not end at meeting this need, but goes a step further. Everywhere we sell our product, we are offering education on the attributes of beekeeping and the local product of honey. We are establishing Stone Bridge Farm as a branded name of honey and honey products through our advertising by brochure, business card, handouts, product label, website and blog. Not only do we speak to local people, but we have met and spoke to people from Utah, Florida, Nebraska, and Alaska who are interested in what we are doing and have purchased honey from us. With the addition of the Internet, we are able to reach out and educate people world wide.
The producer has begun outreach projects for the honey business. The first of these efforts is a brochure, business card, and label design. The producer has completed research on the health attributes of honey and has compiled information that has been included in a handout. The handout is available at all of our engagements, and will be available soon on the website. The website will include contact information for group presentations and farm tours. The website will allow us to go beyond our local area and establish Stone Bridge Farm honey as a branded product throughout the world. The website will be completed by the end of November 2008.
* To further local involvement by offering pollination services for the 2009 season
* To research the use of pollen patties verses medication for hive growth
* To research and implement the uses of herbal infused honey for medicinal purposes
* To research other hive products and their contribution to the community
* To research other outlets to expand our honey business