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  1. #21
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Mesa Arizona USA
    Posts
    165

    Default Re: years invested until commercial

    I really like Joes post. I started out with 4 medium nucs bought from a guy on this site in march of 2010. Bought 4 more in may of the same year. I sent 304 to the almonds this spring, and am now ready to send in another 64 dink due to the bee shortage.so I have got my self to just under. 400 hives. I plan to grow more but the costs of feed and equipment , insurance etc is slowing me down a lot . I can't aford to make divides anymore when I see 3 bees on the landing board.I need to have larger hives in order to make a honey crop. Good luck GB
    George Brenner @ www.valleyhoneyco.com
    Mesa, AZ

  2. #22
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    bridgewater , nova scotia
    Posts
    782

    Default Re: years invested until commercial

    you went from 8 nucs to over 300 + in 3 years !? wow you must have invested a large chunk of money in bee packages or nucs ? And here i was a little concerned about buying another 5-6 this spring .

    Ben

  3. #23
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Athens, greece
    Posts
    140

    Default Re: years invested until commercial

    Quote Originally Posted by Joel View Post
    I consider commericial beekeeping to be professional beekeeping - or the point at which you make your living. Anything else I would look at as sideliner or hobbyist. I was very happy as a sideliner and we made good money and did some of our best production running 50 hives. Beekeeping as a full time business is much like any other business and is dependant on the type of person you are as much as the nature of what you do. A few suggestions I might make would be:

    1) Don't under capitalize - 80% of business fail in the 1st 5 years and here's the reason. You may want to move through the stages of sideliner to full time gaining equipment, experiance a market. When you think you have enough of a cushion then double it.

    2) Know thyself - All business today is managing in crisis. The roller coaster economy, CCD, flutating energy costs, health care, retirement, severe weather are just a few challenges you will face every single day. Mangaing today is about being able to be flexible and turn a dime to take advantage of what may come. It takes a great deal of fortitude and faith when you are waiting on a big market day, a big pollination check, a check from a packer ect, and it doesn't come on time. You'll still have to make payroll (your's if nothing else), pay business debt, conduct marketing efforts, make the mortage payment and punt from the 38 yard line. If you don't strive under frequent stress and have the ability to do the impossible on any given day then full time beekeeping ( or any farm business) is likely not for you.

    2) Find/create your niche - Wholesale honey at 2.00/lb and the US production vs demand means you will very likely be able to make reasonable money during your build-up to full time. What will your income streams be, how will you develop them, how long will it take and what hive, vehicle, building, capital and other resourses will you need in place to make that happen. We made the mistake early on of allowing ourself to get pidgeon holed into retail honey sales. It has been good for us but I think it is the most expensive and labor intensive way to make a profit. It took a few year to expand into other areas and make them profitable due to being so invested in one area.

    3) Educate yourself - Lectures, seminars and classes from people who are already doing this at the level you want to reach. Hobbyist courses will be of little value when you are working to efficiently manage a few hundred hives or more a week. Good video's , ABJ and other periodicals, Good bee research studies all will serve you well. You'll need to apply these successfully in the field before you will be successful at the bank. A day with a good commerical beekeeper is worth a week of classroom instruction. Don't forget to subscribe to Inc and Fast Company type magazines to read that people who run $30 million dollar companies have had to sell their car for half what it's worth to make payroll in a bad week. I am always amazed at how my business problems are the same as the guy who runs a huge outlet chain and getting their "mantra" helps me be a better business man overall.

    4) Quit your job when the time come - Bee prepared, plan well, have a reserve and make the jump. Nothing will motivate you and bring out the best business man beekeeper you can be like getting the late notice on your mortgage. Hunger can be a real motivator. Working 18 hrs a day - 7 days a week, trying to work full time and run a commericial operation will cost you more than you will imagine so make you plan, prepare and go for it if that's your dream.

    Most of us who do this for a living are just people who would rather work 12 hours a day and own our time than sell our lives to someone else 8 at a time. We love the creative, challenging process it takes to succeed by our wits and are willing to risk it all to do it and that risk is virutally every day. It is this wonderful roller coaster which as it reaches each new peak we love the anticipation of riding it over the top and screaming down the other side in the face of fear and the face of each victory. Today my 22 year old son sits next to me on this ride now and that's pretty cool too.

    I knew a hospice worker who I spoke with before I made the jump. She told me the only consistent regret she saw with terminal patients was the one thing they really wanted to do in life but didn't go for - With that thought in mind then it really for me was just about what I really wanted. I walked away from a 60K a year job (very good in my area), full bene's and have not regretted it for a day.
    Indeed very accurate post. BUT!!!!!!
    I am an electrical engineer, running my own little company in construction business. The last few years, construction in Greece is in sub zero. So, all the above said is for someone who has the luxury to make a choice. If you don't have this luxury, just wear your boots up to the neck, and run to the deep mud.

  4. #24
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Poplar Bluff, Missouri, USA
    Posts
    2,308

    Default Re: years invested until commercial

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Little View Post
    ... I don't want to split my strong hives in spring , because from what i was told , it will decrease the honey production in those hives. But i am only going by what i am told here. ...Ben
    As they say, all beekeeping is local. I'd suggest visiting with several larger beekeepers in your area about splitting. I'd think even a two or three frame split from your strong hives would not hurt the strong hive, and there would (that's the question, isn't it?) be time for the split to get strong enough to survive your winter. Then the next spring/summer you've got more colonies to produce honey, make more splits. Is that a reasonable hypothesis?
    Regards,
    Steven
    "If all you have is a hammer, the whole world is a nail." - A.H. Maslow

  5. #25
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Mesa Arizona USA
    Posts
    165

    Default Re: years invested until commercial

    Hello Ben, thanks I have made alot of headway in the hive numbers, I havent had to buy any nucs etc. these were from splits. I was only kidding a little bit about splitting when I had 3 bees on the landing board at the same time. My point is that I have grown to the point that the costs of feeding and equipment have over powered my ability to supplement the bees, it now has to pay for it self.Most of my honey production and pollintion revenue gone right back into the bees. I have started to sell honey locally with good succes so I am looking to get some money out of the girls and reduce my out of pocket. good luck GB
    George Brenner @ www.valleyhoneyco.com
    Mesa, AZ

  6. #26
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    28,274

    Default Re: years invested until commercial

    Quote Originally Posted by EastSideBuzz View Post
    That word commercial is your issue. If you are making living at bee's that would be commercial right? But, what if you have a day job and run 150 hives are you commercial or a sideliner.?
    Sideliner. A Commercial Beekeeper is a fulltime beekeeper who pays his bills from his honeybee business. May have a spouse who works too. Who doesn't?

    400 hives or more. Income comes from honey sales, pollination, selling nucs, selling queens, selling whatever you have when you can get a good price for it.
    Mark Berninghausen
    The answers are the end. The questions are the journey. Journey on.



  7. #27
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Issaquah,WA,USA
    Posts
    2,425

    Default Re: years invested until commercial

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Little View Post
    Did you purchase nucs or packages to go from 11 to 80 the next season ?
    I will be keeping my day job , it funds the beekeeping and pays the bills LOL
    Ben
    Packages and Nuc's. I take down a deep and 5 frames of comb 1 frame of honey. they add 3 frames of bee's and take them to prunes. I get back a single deep ready for a second deep. I usually buy 100 a year of those.

    Quote Originally Posted by BMAC View Post
    If beekeeping cant fund itself for you, you may want to reconsider growing. It sounds like it might just be a really large expensive hobby.
    OH yea it is.

  8. #28
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    bridgewater , nova scotia
    Posts
    782

    Default Re: years invested until commercial

    The main reason for this thread was to hear how individuals grew into the "scale" business they are currently in. Like some of the replies , where they tell how they went from small amounts of colonies to large amounts. Commercial is just how i worded it in the original post, sorry.
    I enjoy to read about how everyone has done so well or if they have suggestions on issues that can occur in this type of farming.
    That is all i was asking : )

    I am happy keeping bees and if i want to grow into a large scale of business it's always good to know others who enjoy their craft as well : )

    Thank you everyone for replying

    Ben

  9. #29
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    28,274

    Default Re: years invested until commercial

    In 1986 I moved from OH to NY w/ 12 colonies of bees. Worked for NYS Ag&Mkts as an Apiary Inspector for the next 20 years. During that time I built up from the original twelve by buying two 200 colony operations w/ the help of Loans from the FSA. Then building that 400 into 800 over the next years. When I took possession of the first 200 I also got 2 pollination contracts and two honey outlets. After a handful of y6ears a friend quit pollinating apples and I picked up some of what he had been covering.

    During that time I also expanded my stock of outlets for my honey across the northern Adirondacks by offering to sell Local Honey at competitive prices to stores and restaurants.

    All along work w/ and helping commercial beekeeping friends of mine and learning the ropes of migratory beekeeping.

    If your mind is bent this way, learn how to be a businessman as well as a beekeeper. It'll save you from many headaches.
    Mark Berninghausen
    The answers are the end. The questions are the journey. Journey on.



  10. #30
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Manitoba Canada
    Posts
    6,586

    Default Re: years invested until commercial

    The hard part of expansion is keeping up with the equipment. you can build hundreds or thousands of colonies within a couple of years for pretty much nothing, but you need the equipment to house them in, and then match for your honey volumes. So many beekeepers focus on buying the stock, I try to tell them to focus on your equipment and facilities.
    When expanding, I would take 20% of my lower producing hives and chop them down as many times as I could figure. Those colonies usually dont do much through the season anyway so I got as much as I could from them
    but, thats real easy to say because about the time I get busy making nucs, the flow is hot on my tail, and I usually had to super everything up before I could finish my "plans".

    alot of this business is just riding the wave
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  11. #31
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    28,274

    Default Re: years invested until commercial

    "riding the wave". I like it. So true.
    Mark Berninghausen
    The answers are the end. The questions are the journey. Journey on.



  12. #32
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Clark county, Illinois, USA
    Posts
    220

    Default Re: years invested until commercial

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian View Post
    The hard part of expansion is keeping up with the equipment. you can build hundreds or thousands of colonies within a couple of years for pretty much nothing, but you need the equipment to house them in
    I sure agree with that. I have stacks and stacks of unassembled equipment higher than my head in my unheated workshop. I can dress warm and get it all cut and ready but it is too cold to glue and paint.

  13. #33
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Stillwell, KS
    Posts
    649

    Default Re: years invested until commercial

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Little View Post
    The main reason for this thread was to hear how individuals grew into the "scale" business they are currently in.
    Ben
    I've gotten to 40+ hives in two years by doing paid removals. Provided free bees and more than enough funds for equipment, and kept the wife happy with a couple nice vacations.

    Don

  14. #34
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    bridgewater , nova scotia
    Posts
    782

    Default Re: years invested until commercial

    Yeah i hear you on the COLD , i just came back in from the unheated building from building honey supers with my freezing cold lumber that is not quite dry yet , but i have to start cutting it out. It's only -1 or less , but spring is just around the corner and i want to be prepared.
    I have the day off from work , so i thought it would be best spent making boxes

    I really like the stories everyone : ) Keep them coming !

    Have a good day

    Ben

  15. #35
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Greensboro, North Carolina
    Posts
    2,850

    Default Re: years invested until commercial

    What about yards? What type of land do you utilize moving from 5 hives to 100 in a few years? Do most of you own a few dozen acres? A few hundred acres? Of do you just wait till there's too many hives in one location, then ask a farmer to place some there for free pollination?

    The equipment is easy for me to plan for (theoretically, at least. you always end up short handed in the peak of the season when you do your best to over prepare), but it's difficult to tell if I have too many hives in one location. If the area gets too crowded, I get robbing issues. It's a whole lot easier to get an extra swarm than it is to get an extra outyard (that isn't an hour and a half away ).

  16. #36
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Indianapolis IN 46227
    Posts
    285

    Default Re: years invested until commercial

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Little View Post
    I really like the stories everyone : ) Keep them coming !
    I'm a small but growing sideliner. I'm driving 2500 miles round trip to bring a load of bees to Indy in April. I've had them on craigslist since November. Sales have been good, and I should grow by 50 hives for my effort. This may become an annual endeavor.

    Ditto on back to building boxes!

  17. #37
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    28,274

    Default Re: years invested until commercial

    Spc K, I have yds I inherited from other beekeepers and I have yds I established myself by asking landowners. A few are located on land owned by people who asked me to put my bees there for the Summer. All sorts of ways to do it. One yd I'd really like to use belongs to a Church. The land is vacant. It's flat mostly and well graveled, since the Church used to be there. It would make a great staging yd for gathering hives and loading the semi. Centrally located too. But, no, liability concerns on the part of the Insurance Co. the Church uses.

    Find a location which suits you. Find the landowner. Knock on their door /w a jar of honey in hand and ask. Hand them the jar, giving it to them whetrher they let you occupy their land or not. Maybe they know someone in the neighborhood who would.

    It's like closing a sale. One of the questions one should remember to ask is, "Do you know anyone else who might let me put bees on their property?" or "Since you seem to like my honey, who else should I approach?"

    Be friendly and be prepared to be turned down. You are the one who likes stinging insects after all.

    Way to go Don. Good work. Get the Mrs. to go w/ you.
    Mark Berninghausen
    The answers are the end. The questions are the journey. Journey on.



  18. #38
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Greensboro, North Carolina
    Posts
    2,850

    Default Re: years invested until commercial

    That's what I figured Mark.
    It seems like alot of work to get yards together. Almost as much work as the rest of the beekeeping operation. Considering that some yards will not be too close to you, some won't have good forage in their area, some will be in flood plains or susceptible to theft, some will have liability issues, some you may not get along with the owner, and some will just not work out (for one reason or another). With it taking so much time and energy to find a yard, then spend all the time and energy to move the bees there, only to have some % of them not work out, it seems like your job would be mostly "yard locator" and less beekeeper.

    But I'm sure once you get the good yards, you treat them like gold and hold on to them for years.

  19. #39
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    28,274

    Default Re: years invested until commercial

    Yes, I do. I know yds that have had bees in them for generations.
    I don't spend a lot of time yd searching. Just keep my ears and eyes open. Some people look at the Forest and see trees and some see lumber, or houses, or hockey sticks. Do it long enough and you will be driving down the road and your mind will simply think, "Boy, that would be a nice place to have bees."
    Mark Berninghausen
    The answers are the end. The questions are the journey. Journey on.



  20. #40
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    bridgewater , nova scotia
    Posts
    782

    Default Re: years invested until commercial

    Well this was a funny day , i was back out in the building cutting more wood for boxes and i was called out to the shop by my father. I went in the shop and there stood a guy wanting to speak about Bees ... well i wasn't sure if it was a good or bad thing at first , because i thought maybe it was a municipality guy saying he had complaints about my bees or something silly . But he said he was a Haskap Farmer and he had a need of a beekeeper to put hives on his land permanently , At first i was kinda shocked , because i have been looking for another place to put bees for good foraging . He said he would help me get the land setup for them and i could use the land as much as i needed plus there is lots of open fields around the area that are grown over with wildflowers after the Haskaps are done blooming.

    So i told him how i was growing the business and he was happy to see someone my age to have such an interest in beekeeping and farming , because there really isn't that many people doing it around my area.

    Also the honey made from haskaps is being sold for a premium according to the owner. he has another 2000 plants coming in to plant as well. and the whole area is electric fenced too.

    So i'm very happy today : ) i was actually a little worried about finding more land for putting bees on .

    here is a photo from a haskap blog he was in. http://www.lahaveforests.com/lahave-...rs-corner.html

    Should be a fun year.

    Ben

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