Well I've gotten into this just enough to realize that it's fun and definately not a get rich quick scheme. Beekeeping is a sideline on the farm, orginal intent was to keep 3 or 4 hives.
But keep wondering if I should be more serious about it. I enjoy making the hives, messing with the bees and watching what is blooming and they are feeding on. And the products are pretty sweet too. At some point everything can turn from fun to drudgery but I don't know how many hives that really translates into.
Knowing that everyone will have diffent experiences, different honey flows, etc. My questions for anyone in the group who has 'ramped up' are:
1.) How many hives can you comfortably take care of as a weekend sideline
2.) Where was your 'break point' that the amount of honey really started to offset the equipment and yield up some free cash (and what's the average yield for a hive in your area)
3.) Do you retail or wholesale?
I've had plenty of offers to buy my honey wholesale and with prices around $1.60 it's not too bad, but prices haven't always been so good and I'm wondering where that magic number of hives is that gives enough efficiency to hang through the low price years and still not be an all out full time job.
>1.) How many hives can you comfortably take care of as a weekend sideline
How long have you had the 2 or 3 hives? You have to develop a style and a rythm of what it takes. Also you have to figure out your equipment and how to minimize your work and your inpsections. I find 4 hives keeps me pretty busy on weekends and evenings in the summer, but I can also keep 20 and not do as good of a job. I'm slower to find queenless hives and slower to get things resolved when I see a problem, but I will end up with more honey too.
>2.) Where was your 'break point' that the amount of honey really started to offset the equipment and yield up some free cash (and what's the average yield for a hive in your area)
I'll let you know if I every make any money at it.
I have no idea what average yeild would be for a hive in my area, but when I've had established hives that I wasn't splitting, like I am this year, I've gotten 300 to 400 pounds from a hive before. These were Buckfasts in DE hives with ventilation. I think the ventilation makes a big difference in yeilds.
>3.) Do you retail or wholesale?
So far, I just got into this seriously. I had a friend who was selling honey for me at his farmer's market stand along with his vegatables. I think you need a market for both if you're going to have 20 hives or so.
If you make unheated coarsely filtered honey and take it to ethnic stores you'll find that Middle Easterners, and Eastern Indians (not American Indians so much) and Greeks have a real appreciation for that delicate taste of minimally processed honey.
>I've had plenty of offers to buy my honey wholesale and with prices around $1.60 it's not too bad, but prices haven't always been so good and I'm wondering where that magic number of hives is that gives enough efficiency to hang through the low price years and still not be an all out full time job.
I find I'm in a race with the hives I have and never get everything done that I want. I have about 20 hives here at my house and never get around to the outyard at my friends house where there are about 20 more that I want to spend more time on.
I originally started my 2 hives as a hobby but realized that if I intended to sell, I could call it a business which would also provide some writeoff for equipment, losses, etc. I know many people who run their "hobby" as a business for this advantage, even though you might not actually "make" money, at least every year... Anybody else thinking along these lines?
We started with two and have gone to 500 over the course of 20 years. It's all about time management and space available. We have a 40 by 60 steel building and I really need another one. All of our expansion has been generated from cash flow. My one cardinal rule has been,"Never borrow money to buy bees". Crop failures do occur. Minimize risk. Every expansion seems to create a new set of problems. If you plan to do this on any scale at all, you should visit some locations in your area and see how they handle things. Remember that there is never one sure answer for of this.
I've been doing some research and it looks like most AG models are based on a 250 hive operation to generate real income.
I'm thinking over time, as I develop my skills, I'm going to work on adding it as another income stream to our farm.
I have collected several 'pro forma budgets' for small beekeeping operations. I'll look for a way to post them. would like to get feedback if they are at all realistic. One from Penn State, one from Allen Dick. None of them figure labor (it's free!) but will try to build a model that includes that as well. This feedback is good because it looks like there are several business models - direct retail (farm stand, farmers market, back of the pickup), farmer to farmer/farm stand/CSA, wholesale to retailer, distributor, or wholesaler.
I suggested to the editor of "Growing for Market" (a sustainable ag publication for vegetable and flower farmers) that an article on the beekeeping business was a nice tie in to a pick your own or anyone distributing through farmer's markets.
P.S. Is it true that a UPC code is $450 a year?
I think UPC registration is $500. It was $300 when we got ours. That was 12 years ago.