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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Northampton, MA
    Posts
    196

    Default First commercial harvest!

    We made the transition to sideliners last year. We spent last year mostly growing bees and didn't take much honey at all. We grew from 5 to 22 hives before winter but suffered terrible losses over the winter and dropped back to only six hives. A hot dry fall, a long winter with no January thaw and a long cold/rainy spring did us in. I think we also had pretty heavy mite loads going into winter, but were just too tired and busy to inspect or treat.

    Through a combination of splits and package bees and a lot of drawn comb we came back strong and took off around 350# yesterday. We managed to do this even though we hardly fed our bees since it was so cold that the packages wouldn't hardly break clusters to feed.

    350# may not sound like a lot to people, but our hives we're weak and decimated. Spring was so cold and rainy. Most of our packages arrived in June. This is a remarkable turn around.

    We pulled 13 medium supers using a 3 person team, a fume board with some Fishers Bee Quick and a leaf blower. Supers were cleared more easily this way that I have ever done before. Quite by accident we wound up loading the supers into a pickup and driving around a bit with also clears a lot of bees!

    It turns out processing honey is a real pain when you get more than a couple of supers. In spite of our new Maxat 3100P we were up until 2 AM processing and still have to go back for more. A lot of this was adjusting to a setup that will work for us so I expect it to go faster.

    We have a ready market for honey and all of it goes to our local coop. So labels and bottling are yet to come. It turns out I love keeping bees, but am much less fond of getting honey out of combs and into bottles! It will be nice to see out honey on the shelf and nicer still to finally get paid. It was a long road and a lot of expense to get here, but success is finally in sight. It can be done.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    wideman, ar
    Posts
    33

    Default Re: First commercial harvest!

    Quote Originally Posted by taxonomy View Post
    Through a combination of splits and package bees and a lot of drawn comb we came back strong and took off around 350# yesterday.
    Very cool, interesting.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Morgan, Utah, USA
    Posts
    252

    Default Re: First commercial harvest!

    Glad you posted this. I'd be very interested in knowing if you make a profit. I like the idea of going from hobbyist to sideliner, but I imagine the initial capital is a big jump. Do you have another harvest in fall planned?

    Also, I can't access your website.
    If I'm neither sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric, nor melancholy, does that mean I'm out of humour?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Northampton, MA
    Posts
    196

    Default Re: First commercial harvest!

    We negotiated our prices last year and worked on packaging consideration last year to ensure that we stack on the boutique end of the market. So, we're getting an excellent price at the wholesale level.

    I would estimate that we invested around $7000 going from five hives to 22 last year not including the fact that the Corolla went and a light pickup now sits in its place.

    Beekeeping is almost an accessory activity when compared to the importance of shoring up your market and market positioning.

    We took off 350 pounds but left a lot of honey on. I'll never make the mistake of taking too much honey off again. It'll be there later. So, we will have a fall harvest and it should be a lot stronger, considering many late hives are just coming online now with field force. New England has about 60% of it's flow left ahead or more. So, we are in good shape. We will be profitable next year I think.

    You could be profitable much quicker if you kept the scale smaller. I want to make $20,000 a year out of bee keeping before I am 50. I am now 44 so I needed to ramp up quick. If you want to make $5000 per year you could cycle quicker.

    My intention is to make a lot per hive but highly manage the hives and stay far in the boutique end of the market. Actual bee keeping is a pretty small factor to me. I enjoy it and like the challenge, but the business side of it is about building a strong brand and strong relations to support it, otherwise you have to produce twice as much honey to make the same amount of money. Also, wholesale only except maybe some single day events. Standing around in a parking lot is not my idea of fun and the time doing so amortizes slowly.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Fresno California USA
    Posts
    2,479

    Default Re: First commercial harvest!

    We will be profitable next year I think.

    Uh oh; here we go...

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Northampton, MA
    Posts
    196

    Default Re: First commercial harvest!

    Profitable in that we recapture out initial investment. But we'd still be getting no wages. That will come some time down the road.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    dadeville, alabama, USA
    Posts
    1,163

    Default Re: First commercial harvest!

    This has been true since the dawn of commercial beekeeping....Beekeepers survive on depreciation of equipment pertaining to the business not profit. Profit, what is that??? TK

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Fresno California USA
    Posts
    2,479

    Default Re: First commercial harvest!

    Welcome to Next Year country.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Drain, OR
    Posts
    424

    Default Re: First commercial harvest!

    Congrats Sounds like a nice feeling.. As to next year country.. isn't that what bee keeping is all about? This spring I caught myself thinking about next year already :P
    A backyard hobbyist, keeping hives since '09. ~ http://www.sweetthangchocolates.com
    Zone 8a/8b

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Northampton, MA
    Posts
    196

    Default Re: First commercial harvest!

    I think we will own all of out equipment next year, that it the business will have paid for it. If you were to pay me a salary of $20 per hour it would take a long, long time to cover what time I have invested. Going into year three we should actually be bringing in new cash.

    We have taken deductions aggressively. We keep good records, we claim mileage.

    The business will allow me to keep beekeeping in the style I have become accustomed to.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Millbury, MA, USA
    Posts
    1,815

    Default Re: First commercial harvest!

    Amen!

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Northampton, MA
    Posts
    196

    Default Re: First commercial harvest!

    Quote Originally Posted by Capricorn View Post
    Congrats Sounds like a nice feeling.. As to next year country.. isn't that what bee keeping is all about? This spring I caught myself thinking about next year already :P
    It's so true the beekeeping is about the long game. We actually have an intern. I was explaining to her that I am starting to plan closing moves for this year last week. We took off in part to try and consolidate the brood nests and get a honey cap on them. In some sense we've moved on to '12 now.

    We're running a lot of two queen colonies and I am wondering what colonies will have strong enough second queens to overwinter. We've made our deals for expansion bee yards for Spring 12 as well.

    It's a nice feeling, yes! We are a going concern now. Not just an idea.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Manitowoc WI USA
    Posts
    353

    Default Re: First commercial harvest!

    I like this story!

  14. #14
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Nelson, South Island, New Zealand
    Posts
    531

    Default Re: First commercial harvest!

    Quote Originally Posted by taxonomy View Post
    I think we also had pretty heavy mite loads going into winter, but were just too tired and busy to inspect or treat.
    I hope you dont make the same mistake again this year!

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