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  1. #81
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    What did he live on himself than? Or is that where his debt came from?
    the debt is all stuff for the bees. i said i still worked part time. actually living costs are quite cheap. its the bees that eat up all the money. and then there is wants of toys and vacations.



    also i agree there is a point in a outfit when the owner of the hives doesnt work like a owner of a sole working keeper. sure i know a few commercial guys that run just over 1000 hives and hire very little if any help. only because they are getting to old to handle it other wise they would be doing it alone. i will work alone as long as my body allows. i hate trying to teach some one just working at a job. not passionate about the bees. but i would say once you get over a couple thousand you must rely on help and they do the work and you keep the show running.

  2. #82
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Income has a number of sources. Maybe you work for another beekeeper part time. Maybe you work a full time job. The bees bring in Income from pollination, honey sales, nuc sales, etc.. Those are all Income.

    Expenses come from everything one spends on the business.

    Profit comes from having more Income , from the Business, than Expenses. Loss (ie: Debt) comes from spending more on the Business than what the Business made in Income. As shown on one's Schedule F :Profit or Loss from Farming.

    Some have been using the words Profit and Income interchangebly.
    Mark Berninghausen #youmatter

  3. #83
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by jim lyon View Post
    Guy: The tough thing is getting to a profitability point when you are starting from scratch. You are getting some good advice here, from some pretty experienced guys. First learn a bit more about the business and the lifestyle required to be successful with some first hand experience. Sure it can be done, but you can also fail at it just as easily because unless you have some pretty good cash reserves you have so little margin for error. You must make a large investment both in time and money but the good news is that currently honey prices and pollination rates are at all time highs so the potential is there but so is the risk.

    Quote Originally Posted by jim lyon View Post
    Guy: The tough thing is getting to a profitability point when you are starting from scratch. You are getting some good advice here, from some pretty experienced guys....
    ... You must make a large investment both in time and money but the good news is that currently honey prices and pollination rates are at all time highs so the potential is there but so is the risk.
    The risk are scary. honey and pollination seem to be at an all time high while bees seem to be at their worst. Someone kindly gave me a spreadsheet, so hopefully that will help me start gaining some perspective. It is the risk and seriousness of the risk with conversations like these. It was something I thought was reasonable to put some serious thought into, in more concrete terms.

    I do understand that diseases and only a slight room for error can leave oneself in a pickle. Finding customer base, another story. Keeping things working, and having all this equipment really adds up. Having the knowledge and experience it takes to understand what to do and when, in challenging situations.

    So when I think about things to do, I wonder what it takes, an outside perspective. I figured the internet would be a good place to toss around an idea.

    I appreciate your input, and value all that I have received so far.

  4. #84
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Ok, so I obviously need to clarify some things. This thread has gotten out of hand!

    I did not anticipate such a response, nor the amount of controversy. I did not mean to upset anyone by posting in here, or haphazardly titling my post. Just was not sure where else it would fit.

    Ok, so really what I am doing, is tossing around an idea. It is not reasonable (and I knew that) to become a "commercial" beekeeper in a short period of time. What I am curious about, it what happens when I do want to take the plunge. What I was really curious about, was what is the point you actually become "commercial" and what that means, as far as lifestyle change, basic practices, opportunities, problems, whatever. This thread was intended to be a think tank if you will for people who have done it, and people who want to do it. Splitting your way to 2000 hives from even 30-50 seems far fetched, I learned that, thanks!

    My general plan is as follows: expand next spring, expand through the summer if possible, expand the following year, etc until I get to a comfortable level. I was unsure about what happens, one day you are at 1,999 hives, and a sideliner, and one day you are at 2000 and commercial. What changed besides the extra hive? Is there something I should have been doing while becoming a serious sideliner that would help prepare me for the next step? Is the next step even something I can, and want to do?

    What kind of lifestyle, or income level, call it whatever, can you support with "brackets" of different numbers of hives? That seems important to me. As previously discussed, I was not the only one trying to aspire and come up with numbers about say, 200 hives. If this could support a decent lifestyle, paying for food, clothes, the basics, I would like to know my thinking was correct in thinking so.

    So no, I do not want to become an overnight commercial beek. Honestly, it doesn't seem feasible for at least another 16 years in my particular life situation anyway. But I like to fantasize about where I will be in 2, 5, 10, 50 years, if alive! I would hate to put the next decade of my life into setting myself up to be a hardcore sideliner and find out when I would like to set myself up to grow further to find out I was missing something major the whole time, that I had to start doing from the beginning.

    Realistically, where should I be, working hard, educating myself, learning from mistakes I and others make, in 2, 5, 10, and 20 years? That's really all. Commercial sounds great, at least in number of hives, but it doesn't sound great in terms of at that point one is really employing others and becoming a numbers cruncher. If my health permitted, 1000 hives ran by my family and I sounds great. 2000 if even possible.

    All I was really trying to do was toy with an idea, gain perspective, and get a dose of realism from experienced people. I know now, I at least am not the only one that was thinking like I was.

    So while commercial is not out the window, let's focus on what kind of sideliner it takes to get there, if they so choose. 200 hives managed very well? 300? 500? I understand I'm not going to get pages of trade secrets, and I'm not looking for them. I am looking for a reasonable discussion in a virtual context to plan a theoretical business venture. It is obviously a concept that is warranting much attention, from all sides, in like thinking individuals (regardless if they are "right" or not) and from experienced people. Experienced folk have said things they wished they would have done differently, things that need to be done, mentalities to adopt, etc. So at least this thread isn't a complete failure.

    Perhaps I should have labeled it "I think I want to be a commercial beek" or something more appropriate. I should have elaborated more, and spent more time explaining myself. But hey, conversation got started, people got excited, and I have already learned much about the business aspect of the business. Let's keep it up!

  5. #85
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    its just something that happens

    what you have to decide is where you would like it to stop, because it never ends once you get things going.
    The entire way your looking at "going commercial" is flawed. Its not about how many hives,
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  6. #86
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by MNbees View Post
    First you need to be: trucker, mechanic, plumber, electrician, carpenter, machine operator, and most of all, crazy!!
    Got that right!

  7. #87
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian View Post
    its just something that happens

    what you have to decide is where you would like it to stop, because it never ends once you get things going.
    The entire way your looking at "going commercial" is flawed. Its not about how many hives,

    If you are thinking about maintaining a life, feeding yourself and family, numbers make it easy to work with. Besides, how is it any different than all the numbers and statistics commercial guys look at it anyway. This thread is begging the very question of what it means to be commercial anyway. If I could make a decent living off two hives, I would still want 20. This seems to be all about numbers, how is this flawed then? You want to be a professional beekeeper? You have to look at numbers (and many other things), whether the numbers add up to hobbyist, sideliner, or commercial all depends on the individual's goals and desires.

    So in part, I agree, it's not 100% about how many hives, as it seems a horrible beekeeper could make less money off 2,000 hives than a great beek could off of 200 very well managed hives. Right?

  8. #88
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    I don't any commercial beekeeper is going to give you gross income per hive.........
    http://OxaVap.com
    Your source for the Varrox Vaporizer, "One of the highest ranked" by R. Oliver

  9. #89
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    Okay. Yes, you are wrong. I am a commercial beekeeper at 500 hives. My livelihood and family is supported by beekeeping. I manage all of my hives.

    A friend of mine owns 3500 colonies and has employees, yet he works hives almost literally every day. He doesn't manipulate combs in every hive, but he works the yards right along w/ his employees and his wife who works hand in hand w/ him. He has employees who work in the honey house extracting and bottling and distributing.

    David Hackenberg and Davey Jr work their hives, thousands, maybe you've seen them in some of the many movies these last cpl of years moving bees to pollination.
    Mark,

    at the end of the year when you look back and consider the many aspects of a commercial (or hobby or sideliner) operation you can determine how much time you have spent on each element. If you look at the incomplete list below (and feel free to add to it), I can't believe that someone with 1000+ haves spends more time in the field tending bees than he does on all the other aspects combined. (nor the guy with 500 either). Maybe I am wrong, or maybe we all tend to overestimate the things we like and underestimate those that we don't. I still have to believe that as your hive counts increase the percentage of your overall beekeeping related time spent "not tending bees" consumes an ever greater time than does actual bee tending. I do not mean that commercial guys don't keep bees. But you are defined by that activity that you spend the most time doing. So are commercial guys spending the majority of their time tending bees or managing their business.

    And believe me, I have the greatest respect for anyone that makes a living on bees. I hope to one day be where you are with about 500 hives. Just enough to manage myself an transport. But then I may end up happy with 50 hives, only time and experience will tell.

    What I am really trying (poorly) to highlight is that a commercial operation encompasses so much more than hobby or sideline, that there is just no way of knowing unless you are there or work closely with the owner of a large operation. With any small business, it is a 24 hour a day job. Always something to use up your time. A commercial operation is just that, it becomes more about insuring you have adequate income, than it is about just tending bees.

    It would be interesting to me to know how much different people spend on the aspects below and how many hives are in their operation

    Cheers.



    Procurement/Purchasing (all aspects)

    Equipment assembly

    Finding/securing apiary sites

    Equipment/hive transportation

    Apiary management (mowing/cleaning/ constructing)

    Colony management (inspecting/feeding/medicating/adjusting)

    Growing bees (splitting/queen rearing)

    Managing Honey (harvesting/extracting/bulk storing)

    Preparing honey for sale retail (Bottling/labeling)

    Selling honey retail (includes travel to/from and markets)

    Selling honey wholesale (includes travel to/from buyers/loading/unloading/scheduling/negotiating)

    Pollination (includes negotiating/arranging transport, etc)

    Managing people(hiring/firing/payroll/workers comp/insurance/etc)

    Managing finances(securing loans/paying bills/filing taxes/insurance/etc)

    Mentoring others

  10. #90
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by GuyDurden View Post
    So in part, I agree, it's not 100% about how many hives, as it seems a horrible beekeeper could make less money off 2,000 hives than a great beek could off of 200 very well managed hives. Right?
    One of the best articles I encountered was where a guy cut back from 100+ hives to 65, because he could manage them better and end up with a greater net income off 65 hives than he could with 100+

  11. #91
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    While I think that you only need to run 1 type of beekeeping operation very well and make a good living at it to be considered commercial, many will say that you need to run multiple operations at the same time to be profitable.

    I would use total assets as a guide. Once you break $200,000 in assets, you're commercial.

  12. #92
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by jbeshearse View Post
    Mark,

    at the end of the year when you look back and consider the many aspects of a commercial (or hobby or sideliner) operation you can determine how much time you have spent on each element. If you look at the incomplete list below (and feel free to add to it), I can't believe that someone with 1000+ haves spends more time in the field tending bees than he does on all the other aspects combined. (nor the guy with 500 either). Maybe I am wrong, or maybe we all tend to overestimate the things we like and underestimate those that we don't. I still have to believe that as your hive counts increase the percentage of your overall beekeeping related time spent "not tending bees" consumes an ever greater time than does actual bee tending. I do not mean that commercial guys don't keep bees. But you are defined by that activity that you spend the most time doing. So are commercial guys spending the majority of their time tending bees or managing their business.

    And believe me, I have the greatest respect for anyone that makes a living on bees. I hope to one day be where you are with about 500 hives. Just enough to manage myself an transport. But then I may end up happy with 50 hives, only time and experience will tell.

    What I am really trying (poorly) to highlight is that a commercial operation encompasses so much more than hobby or sideline, that there is just no way of knowing unless you are there or work closely with the owner of a large operation. With any small business, it is a 24 hour a day job. Always something to use up your time. A commercial operation is just that, it becomes more about insuring you have adequate income, than it is about just tending bees.

    It would be interesting to me to know how much different people spend on the aspects below and how many hives are in their operation

    Cheers.



    Procurement/Purchasing (all aspects)

    Equipment assembly

    Finding/securing apiary sites

    Equipment/hive transportation

    Apiary management (mowing/cleaning/ constructing)

    Colony management (inspecting/feeding/medicating/adjusting)

    Growing bees (splitting/queen rearing)

    Managing Honey (harvesting/extracting/bulk storing)

    Preparing honey for sale – retail (Bottling/labeling)

    Selling honey retail (includes travel to/from and markets)

    Selling honey wholesale (includes travel to/from buyers/loading/unloading/scheduling/negotiating)

    Pollination (includes negotiating/arranging transport, etc)

    Managing people(hiring/firing/payroll/workers comp/insurance/etc)

    Managing finances(securing loans/paying bills/filing taxes/insurance/etc)

    Mentoring others
    Job number one is keeping the hives alive and productive. Unless you have someone who is invested in that as much as the one who owns the business are you going to put your livelihood in someone elses hands?

    It still comes down to what I have written before. Do what you do best and pay for the rest. The commercial beekeepers are good at many aspects of the business of beekeeping, well rounded in all of the things someone listed a cpl of Posts before the one I am replying to now. I could list the names of the most successful commercial beekeepers I know. All of them have their eyes and hands in their beehives equally or more so than any of the workers they have working for them.

    I don't know all the commercial beekeepers that there are but I know enough of them and have read about enougfh of them to be willing to wager that it is not an exageration to say that commercial beekeeper work their bees themselves.

    Maybe the Adees don't. Maybe Andy Card spends less time in his hives than he does on other things but his sons are in the bees. Maybe Dave Mendes doesn't work his own bees as much as David and Davey Jr Hackenberg do. I don't know.

    I guess to really know one would have to do what beekeepers w/ thousands do.
    Mark Berninghausen #youmatter

  13. #93
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by WLC View Post
    Once you break $200,000 in assets, you're commercial.
    Where did you get that number from? Where did you pull it out from?

    Let's not get into this argument again. What the definition of Commercial Beekeeper is. If you are a commercial beekeeper you know it.
    Mark Berninghausen #youmatter

  14. #94
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    I agree pretty much with everything you said Mark, especially the "do what you do best and pay for the rest". I am sure that commercial guys and gals work their bees. But I am just as sure that they spend lots and lots of time managing all the other aspects of their business. Or they won't have one for long.

  15. #95
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    sqkcrk:

    Where did I get that number? The 20% rule. That's the amount of profit ($40K) you should be able to get for that amount ($200K) of total assets.

    I would call a beekeeper who only buys nucs, then feeds, buys new queens, treats, and then sells double the number of nucs that they originally purchased, commercial.

    You don't need to be a jack of all trades.

  16. #96
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Okay WLC. If u say so. We know what you are best at.

    I guess what you are saying is that the guy w/ 2000 hives who doesn't make a profit isn't a commercial beekeeper. I really don't want to get into this quagmire.
    Mark Berninghausen #youmatter

  17. #97
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Ditto.

    The OP was interested in nucs. I don't think that 'The Full Monty' was the intent of the post.

  18. #98
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by jbeshearse View Post
    Mark,

    at the end of the year when you look back and consider the many aspects of a commercial (or hobby or sideliner) operation you can determine how much time you have spent on each element. If you look at the incomplete list below (and feel free to add to it), I can't believe that someone with 1000+ ......

    ......of your overall beekeeping related time spent "not tending bees" consumes an ever greater time than does actual bee tending. I do not mean that commercial guys don't keep bees. But you are defined by that activity that you spend the most time doing. So are commercial guys spending the majority of their time tending bees or managing their business.

    And believe me, I have the greatest respect for anyone that makes a living on bees. I hope to one day be where you are with about 500 hives. Just enough to manage myself an transport. But then I may end up happy with 50 hives, only time and experience will tell.

    What I am really trying (poorly) to highlight is that a commercial operation encompasses so much more than hobby or sideline, that there is just no way of knowing unless you are there or work closely with the owner of a large operation. With any small business, it is a 24 hour a day job. Always something to use up your time. A commercial operation is just that, it becomes more about insuring you have adequate income, than it is about just tending bees.

    It would be interesting to me to know how much different people spend on the aspects below and how many hives are in their operation

    Cheers.



    Mentoring others
    +1, thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by jbeshearse View Post
    One of the best articles I encountered was where a guy cut back from 100+ hives to 65, because he could manage them better and end up with a greater net income off 65 hives than he could with 100+
    Interesting, thanks, kinda what I was getting at.

  19. #99
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    Quote Originally Posted by WLC View Post
    Ditto.

    The OP was interested in nucs. I don't think that 'The Full Monty' was the intent of the post.
    Pretty much. Can one not be a commercial beekeeper by just providing bulk of a service/good? So when people are lining up at brushy mountain, or really any major supplier, that is not making their own packages (idk what brushy mountain does, just an example) who pretty much just resells them, the guy that makes those bulk packages and nucs is indeed commercial in my eyes (my young, naive eyes) if he is suppling a major section of the market with a good or service. Doesn't mean, in my opinion, that one would have to pollinate, artificially inseminate, provide nucs, packages, make hives etc etc to be a commercial beek. What if someone just wanted to raise quality bees and queens for everyone to enjoy? who is reliable, trusted, and knows he has agreements to sell everything he is able to produce, even if it means marking down for a "Bulk discount" That seems commercial to me. If pollination helps him get there (earlier, perhaps) so be it.

    You said my idea better than I could articulate. Thanks!

  20. #100
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    Default Re: I would like to be a commercial beek

    I'm not familiar with the 20% rule but I will go ahead and weigh in on the definition as I see it. Commercial is more a perspective than a given number of hives...or assets. If deriving income from your bees is a big part of your livelihood regardless of whether it is 25% or 100% then, to me, you are commercial. Are you dependent on that income to make the health insurance or the mortgage payment, do you file a schedule F and carefully record all income and expenses? Answer yes to all the above and your a commercial beekeeper in my book. Is the commercial forum just for commercials? No, of course not, all are free to ask and learn, and all are free to discuss beekeeping from a business perspective.
    On the issue of how much time one is able to devote to actual beekeeping once you have 1,000 or more hives it kind of depends on the operator. I have found it a bit easier to get bogged down in details and office work as our business has grown. I am fortunate to have a son who does much of the field management and two other hired men who carry much of the load as well but I am still quite engaged on a day to day basis with what is going on and I would guess on a yearly basis at least 75% of my business hours are spent either in the bee yard or the extracting room.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

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