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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Long Beach, CA
    Posts
    67

    Default What's all the hubbub bub?

    When ever I read the commercial forums, it always makes me wonder. I think you guys are not making much money and I'd need a couple thousand hives to quit my day time job. Seriously some make it sound like a lot of beeks sell everything for 25 cents on the dollar.

    Sometimes I think though the profits are played down to discourage others, so there is less competition. I mean why would anyone go online and talk about making good profits. That would be self defeating.

    I figure the truth is probably somewhere in the middle, and also that doing this for a living would take all the fun out of it.

    These are just the first impressions of an outsider skimming over the commercial beekeeping forums for 1 month.

    I do admire anyone making a living at beekeeping!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    College Station, Texas
    Posts
    6,985

    Default

    I would suspect that much of a persons success in beekeeping is about location (at the current time you location speaks to this directly). At one time a small topic throughly discussed in business/economic school was the idea of competitive advantage. During my year studying such stuff (yes decades ago) you could actually measure this relative $ advantage/position of folks who produced and sold the same stuff.

    of course to a minor degree you are correct in that a lot of agriculture folks have no problem complaining in good times and bad (too much rain, too little rain...yada yada).

    to balance this statement somewhat... agricultural production is fraught with risk that you cannot control and oftertimes markets are far away so 'alternatives' can be extremely limited. this inability to effect outcome can be extemely frustrating for some folks (although some folks may actually thrive in this environment).

    currently I would suspect??? that a lot of turely commercial folks are experiencing a bit of $ success mostly due to factors outside of their personal control. much like the biblical phase suggest (the first shall be the last) when the crunch comes these same success stories will quickly turn south. this ain't so much about some prophetic vision as about the conventional wisdom in regards to folks ability to adapt.

  3. #3

    Default Comm. beekeeping is a dieing breed.

    I've been looking over the number of comm. beekeeper. The USA has lost about half of there comm. guy in the past 10 year. I would love to show someone the ropes and add some back in.
    It does cost a lot of money to get started. I was a luck one and just bought my parents out. I'm working the same equipment that many generation before me worked. If I had to rebuy everything that I have, it would probly cost me 180k.
    Talking those kind of dollars I would never get into it.
    I work four counties and I'm the only comm. beekeeper in those counties.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Flora,IL
    Posts
    2,674

    Default

    A good portion of it is your determination of sucess. 40k a year for a lot of us is a hobby.....

  5. #5

    Default profit

    if you know what you are doing you can make a very good profit on it. The key is to know what you are doing and location, location, location. Every hive and every yard is a little and sometimes a lot different so you need to be very dynamic in your beekeeping in todays times. Back before mites and mono cropping it was much easier.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Owen, WI, USA
    Posts
    2,561

    Default

    We have been making an adequate living for 25 years, with no outside income besides the bees. There have been years where if we had to pay interest on anything we would have gone in the hole. Agriculture is risky business. one better put money aside in the good years for the bad ones that WILL come. The past couple years have been exceptional with higher than normal honey prices and many commercials are benefiting from pollination fees as well. Will honey prices stay high? Will the high pollination fees continue. I don't know. If they don't I sure wouldn't want to be sitting on a mortgage on bee equipment that might not be in as big a demand as it is now.

    Ron, yes commercial numbers are dwindling, but I think the number of colonies folks run is increasing. I also am seeing a lot of new blood coming in, encouraged by the current positive conditions. I see this as a positive thing and only hope they manage to ride the inevitable downturns, both individually and industry wide.
    The thing about beekeeping is that it is HARD work and many aren't willing to put in the sweat and hours it takes. Those that do can make it work.
    Sheri

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Faulkner Manitoba, Canada
    Posts
    1,698

    Default

    Anything Ag related is a challenge in making money. It's not like other businesses where you are dependant only on a market. Restraunts, clothing, professional, all depend on the market to make money. Yes, you need good food, decent clothes, and good customer service, but that can be improved upon to make good money. They are inputs you can control.

    In agriculture,the only input you can control, is the input of time you work on the farm. You are dependant on the market, and the weather. Both are out of your control. Bad weather can make or break a year. Bad weather can affect the health of your livestock, it can affect your crop, it an affect your cost on inputs. And there are times that no matter what you do, it is out of your control. You can do your best at putting in the best crop or you can do your best at providing up to date heath protocols for your livestock, in the end you are at the mercy of what someone else is will to pay, no negotiation.

    In a restraunt you can set the price for a meal. In that price you include all you input costs, your labour, your overhead and your want to make $ and what the customer is willing to pay for your service. You know what it costs to make a plate, and your price to the customer is reflective on that.

    In agriculture, say cows, your costs depend on inputs like fertilizer, fuel, vet bills, small tools, fence repairs, labour and overhead. Just like in a restraunt. The difference is, you take your cattle to an auction and the price you get depends on what the market dictates. We can not set our price to sell a cow or calf. We know our cost of production and we hope we can cover that but, get what we get and like it or not.

    It is the same for any other ag commodity. We can not set the price for grains, oil seeds, any other livestock, or honey. We get the price that is dictated to us.

    Now add in weather ie a hail storm that can wipe out a good crop in 5 minutes, add in deaths of livestock...not always controlled, cheaper imports into the country, and you begin to realize that any ag commodity is a job you have to love to continue.

    Yes we can dictate the price we set for farmgate sales on honey, but a commercial producer produces way more honey that what farmgate sales account for. The rest goes bulk.
    Livestock such as cows, you can set a price for breeding stock, but meat sales are highly regulated, and costly. Milk can not be sold farm gate, eggs, yes can be sold farmgate but again you are under some regulations like the # of birds for a none quota farm. Most farmgate sales of grain and oilseed is to other farmers for planting or feeding, not to consumers.
    Then add into the mix a customer who comes for farm gate sales and says, how about we deal. If i buy 10# of honey will you give me a deal? Or if i buy 3 jars of honey instead of 1 will you give me a deal? They treat farmgate sales like a garage sale. New farmgate customers are so far removed from that ag world that they forget the effort and cost that goes into creating a farm fresh product.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Fresno California USA
    Posts
    2,496

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by gmcharlie View Post
    A good portion of it is your determination of sucess. 40k a year for a lot of us is a hobby.....

    OK, you managed to make me feel like a loser.

  9. #9

    Sad

    40k a year, You wish!!
    If you sell 2 loads of honey for $100,000.00. that is a good price, not a great price, but OK.
    Then you add all your expanses:
    Packages, queens,HFC, trucks, insurance, feul, Equipment replacemant, and the list goes on. I think I'm still in the hole.
    The bad thing about comm. beekeeping is you put all the money out to produce a product and then the packer wants a 30-90 days to work with your honey interest free. Last year I gave a week for them to pay if they wanted it. I'm not a BANK!!!! If you need a bail out go to the Goverment.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Fresno California USA
    Posts
    2,496

    Default How Much Do You Make

    Man I've had years when I worked my tail off, put ALL my money in to the bees, no vacations, and still went backwards. Then you have to spend MORE money and do MORE work just to get back where you were. Sometimes it's just dumb pride that keeps you going.

    I used to make & sell bee supplies and I got to see first hand how many go in to and get out of the bee biz. And how many have been doing it for, say, like John & Sheri, 25 years.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Knox County, Ohio
    Posts
    2,709

    Default

    The reason you find so many pessimists on forums is because the guys making the big bucks don't have the time to be on forums. (spoken tongue in cheek - it's a generalization; some on here probably make good money, but many more wish they did)

    My neighbor used to have about 25 hives 20 years ago. When I started playing around with bees, his advice to me was that no one makes any money with bees without hard work being involved. Sheri said the same thing - beekeeping is hard manual labor that involves really long hours sometimes. It is real work. Don't quit your day job if you think you can get rich by sitting in a lawnchair watching your bees make honey. Plan on working until you hurt all over, and know there is still work that needs done.

    Of course, take my advice with a grain of salt. I'm not a commercial beekeeper. (yet?)

    During times I was laid off at my regular job, I have helped a grain farmer who ran about 3500 acres. During planting and harvest, we would work loooong hours. His motto was, "We'll sleep when it rains."

    If need be, are you willing to do hard physical work 16 and 20 hour days for a few weeks straight? If you're willing to make that kind of commitment to the bees, then you might start thinking about quitting your day job.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Owen, WI, USA
    Posts
    2,561

    Default

    Country boy,
    "we'll sleep when it rains"? Yeah, after that syrup pump is fixed and the oil filter changed on the swinger and the tires changed on the truck and that batch of boxes assembled and painted and .....
    Sheri
    Last edited by JohnK and Sheri; 05-24-2009 at 07:37 AM.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Flora,IL
    Posts
    2,674

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom G. Laury View Post
    OK, you managed to make me feel like a loser.
    Not my intention..... point was that if you live in a place where a home price is 300k,, and or have several kids. They typical "farm income" won't even begin to cover it. I have been in farming all my life. And from that can tell you for sure its tough..... bees or corn either one......

    (actually I am in Ag engineering) Most everyone I know in the business, bees or cows, is constantly whinining about profits and being broke,,,,,,, So jumping into bees as a commercial business, for many is not ever going to look like a finicial winner...... 40k is nice, but its a heck of a lot of work and not enough to live on in about 25% of the country....

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Lancaster, Ky. / Frostproof Fl.
    Posts
    996

    Angry

    tom ....been there done that! 2007 had 100 yr freeze AND 100 yr drought....2008 well would you believe a 120 yr drought?....been running bees since 1977.....out of those years I have had 7 bad ones....including the LAST 5!!! all related to drougnt and freezes. AND three hurricanes that ALL three crossed paths over my yards in FL....want to know where my bees are in Fl....look at where they crossed paths!!! got hit by all three!!!

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2000
    Location
    NE Calif.
    Posts
    2,271

    Default

    Bad things WILL happen to the bees if you stay with it long enough.For me its been:
    Vandalism( now and then )
    Floods (once)
    Forest fires (twice)
    Bears (every year)
    Spray kill (twice)
    Drought (regularly)
    Too much rain (can't remember that one)
    AFB (rarely)
    Nosema C.(still trying to figure that one out)
    Mites (twice lost 50% of hives)
    Taxes (always)

    You learn to just suck it up.I still manage to make a living at it, but have no illusions of ever getting rich.But I get to see every sunrise, and don't have to listen to some nagging moron of a boss.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Owen, WI, USA
    Posts
    2,561

    Default

    Good list, Mike
    To it I would add:
    Theft
    Unfair competition from imported honey (adulterated, blends?)

    Sheri

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jul 2000
    Location
    NE Calif.
    Posts
    2,271

    Default

    I thought of a few more things that can go wrong, Sheri, but no point in scaring away the newbees. On the bright side,we don't have hurricanes here. After losing her two hives to mites a few years ago, an old lady told me "Mike, I don't think this bee business is all its cracked up to be"

    I am seriously concerned about the wildfire potential this year in Ca.Got a bad feeling about it.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    24,495

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by rainesridgefarm View Post
    if you know what you are doing you can make a very good profit on it. The key is to know what you are doing and location, location, location. Every hive and every yard is a little and sometimes a lot different so you need to be very dynamic in your beekeeping in todays times. Back before mites and mono cropping it was much easier.
    I can't really argue w/ rainesridge, but I would add that being an organized workaholic businessminded person helps too. Plus longevity.
    Mark Berninghausen "Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board." Zora Neale Hurston

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    24,495

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnK and Sheri View Post
    Country boy,
    "we'll sleep when it rains"? Yeah, after that syrup pump is fixed and the oil filter changed on the swinger and the tires changed on the truck and that batch of boxes assembled and painted and .....
    Sheri
    Hey Sheri,
    Does anyone make an air-ride seat for a Bobcat Skidsteer? My butt is sore from loading and unloading hives. I'm sure you know what I mean.
    Mark Berninghausen "Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board." Zora Neale Hurston

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Boston, Georgia
    Posts
    484

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    Hey Sheri,
    Does anyone make an air-ride seat for a Bobcat Skidsteer? My butt is sore from loading and unloading hives. I'm sure you know what I mean.
    Dean has a spring suspension seat for the hummerbee. I have one that I bought and put on my bobcat. Its nice!
    I am holding on to the hope I have inside... Kutless

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