Speer, Ed Sweet Betsy (1)Karen and Wade “Ed” Speer, Sweet Betsy Farm

Bee Farm Season Extension
Grant Award: $6,000

Karen and Ed have renovated their on-farm store, The Honey House at Sweet Betsy Farm, located just off US-221, so that they can keep the stand open at least nine months of the year, from April to Christmas, adding three months to their season. The Honey House offers a variety of bee products, such as honey, beeswax candles and other hand-crafted gift items.

Speer, Ed Sweet Betsy (27)April and May are their big sales months at the farmer’s market, but up to this point, they could not open The Honey House at that time due to inclement weather. Likewise, December is a great time to sell to visitors driving to the area to purchase Christmas trees, but has been too cold for the farm stand.

The building required the installation of insulation, wiring, lighting and heating for the colder months and shorter days, as well as air conditioning to sell temperature sensitive products such as creamed honey and beeswax ornaments in the summer.

“We have an observation hive in the store which garners a lot of attention and repeat customers but it is limited to the warm weather months for the health of the bees,” Karen said. They can keep the store hive open in the winter as well as expand current products to include creamed honey, wax products and eventually local cheeses in the summer.

Speer, Ed Sweet Betsy (23)Karen and Ed are poised to expand since they currently can’t meet demand without buying products from other beekeepers. They have the capacity to double the hives on their property and also expand to other local sites. They hope to build the business so it is providing a full-time income for both of them within 10 years.

They also are growing their Adopt-a-Hive program, a subscription service for beginner beekeepers to maintain a hive and receive guidance without the financial risk of buying their own hives. Karen and Ed worked with McDowell Middle School “Inspire to Innovate” After School Program, in which students constructed hives, painted them school colors, learned how to wear protective gear to maintain hives, and extracted and bottled honey in the fall.

“The Adopt-a-Hive program is a unique concept allowing families and groups to experience the fun of beekeeping while receiving ongoing educational support from experienced beekeepers,” Karen said.

Karen and Ed have been beekeeping since 2008 and selling honey since 2010. They have 30 hives, averaging 80 pounds of honey for each honey-producing hive, and offer products such as honey, beeswax, nucleus hives and honeybee queens. In addition to selling direct to individuals on the farm, they also set up at the Downtown Hickory Farmer’s Market and sell wholesale to Carronni’s Creations, a local artisanal cracker manufacturer. They advertise through Blue Ridge Mountain Host, a regional travel guide.

Karen and Ed use no pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals to manage hives and are certified through the N.C. State Beekeeping Association. To control exposure of bees to pesticides, they have planted more than 200 flowering trees, including 125 sourwood trees. They manage Russian honeybees as part of the USDA Russian Bee Breeding program, and use Integrated Pest Management, which they also teach through their Adopt-a-Hive” Program. Their farm has been declared “Certified Wildlife Habitat” due to the wildlife sustainable practices they use.

See www.sweetbetsyfarm.com and look up Sweet Betsy Farm on Facebook.


McDowell County

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