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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I know alot of people in my area who have approached me over the past year with a strong demand for "boutique" honey for their companies, nucs from beeclub members and small backyard hobby farmer pollination. I am a 3rd yr beek with 10 hives and i'm growing but doing it slowly because i'm learning by making ALOT of mistakes, keeping it self sufficient by staying debt free and making my own materials but i'm hampered by a lack of knowledge and inexperience.

You can go to all the meetings, classes, read all the books but that doesnt compare to getting out there in the field and learning from someone who is above you. I've visited 3 beeclubs in my area but only one club has a commercial guy with 400+ hives but he's very leary about taking people on and he rarely shows up to meetings except only when its that time of the year he's selling his products. 99% of beeclub members (to me) are hobbyists with 1-4 hives and to be honest i dont think commercial beeks go to beeclub meetings because commercial beeks have networking/business needs that (to me) are not met on a hobbyist level.

I have a great job that i feel is my life's calling in which i only work 3-4 days a week which fortunately makes a great salary so i wouldnt be giving that up nor would i want. I have no interest in creating a 1000 hive operation. My goal is to get up to 100 hives and stay there and keep my niche markets happy and productive.

So how does one find a commerical/sideliner mentor willing to help you who hasnt been scared away by the crush of newbies with business aspirations?
 

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1. call them and ask to meet with them on thier time or offer to buy them a cup of coffee or breakfast in the morning.
2. stop by their retail location and spark up a conversation.
3. OFFER to help with splits, extraction, etc. for the experience not a paycheck.
4. Think of a few legitimate questions you need answered and call or stop by for advice.
 

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Try to help a commercial or sideliner who you won't be competition for. Try to find someone far enough away that he doesn't have to worry about you putting a beeyard right next to one of his, but someone still close enough you can get to them in a couple hour drive or less.

For example, this year I am going to be helping a commercial guy occasionally who is about 100 miles from me. It's a 2 1/2 hour drive. His farthest yard is about 50 miles from his home. Even if I grew to equal size and had yards 50 miles away, our yards would not overlap.
 

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You truly have a problem, kind of a catch-22. Any commercial beekeeper that would give away his knowledge, does not have the knowledge that you wish. Any successful commercial beekeeper is smart enough to not give away his knowledge, and would charge you for the trouble you cause him. Those that have been around for a long time, did not give away all their secrets to the competition.
I know, it sounds egotistocal, sorry. Just the facts.
Learn it the way everyone else had to, the School of hard knocks.

Roland Diehnelt
5th generation beekeeper
 

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Well thank goodness, I have made friends with several who have offered their advice, help, equipment, and the shirt off their back... I'm welcome in their homes and honey houses. I have also contacted and made friends with several commercial guys on this forum (from other states) that have been great resources and more than willing to offer advice and help deal with problems. THANK YOU to those of you willing to help me and others, I promise I will continue to pay it forward.
 

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Most commercial guys I know will always be glad to have someone come out for a day and help. Be it splits, re-queening, putting on supers, pulling supers, etc. The guys I know work all the time, including weekends (well at least Sat.) so it's easy to just give the guy a call or stop by and ask what time do you start on Sat. and do you mind if I keep you company and help. I have yet to be turned down. Just make sure you show up if you say you are going to. Once you get a relationship going you will learn mucho about the trade. And...I have yet to have a commercial guy say he was worried about a hobbyist "moving" in on his territory. They just don't have the hives to compete. Last...watch and learn. Don't play 10,000 questions. If they are doing something you can as why he does it that way. Anyway, good luck and get out there.
 

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In my area, I've found that there are a lot of semi-commercial / serious sideliners who are more than willing to help mentor and talk with beekeepers wanting to make the move beyond hobby beekeeping...

AFTER they have become friends with you.


You're right. They get inundated with requests from hobbyists who have a ton of questions. And, quite honestly, they're not in the position to be able to answer all the questions a beginning beekeeper may have. This is their bread and butter, and time is money, after all. Here's a hint: If you can look up the answer somewhere yourself, don't bother them by asking the question.

My advice? Read all you can. Become active in clubs and at the state level. Read more. Identify who the major players are, and who they associate with. Go to state beekeeper conventions. Read even more. And finally, ask to be introduced.

Once you've demonstrated to them that you have your chops, and that you have something to bring to the table, and you've shown that you're a decent guy, you'll be accepted into the fold. And that's where the "secrets" start to come out. (And what's funny is that you'll find that a lot of the "secrets" aren't really secrets after all.)

Good luck,
DS
 

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If I could have put together a couple of weeks off from work, I would have taken up Michael Palmer's offer for internships.

Don't know if there are any openings available, but it would be worth a message to him.

(It's also an example of a commercial beekeeper that is not desperate to take all his beekeeping secrets to the grave.)

Wayne
 

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Fish-stix - NO, I do not know how to make a millions any better then the next guy. I seem to have a knack of being the first to find out what NOT to do(we have seen more of the "bad" than others). Yes, most beekeepers will be glad to share the common knowledge. and that is good.


Roland Diehnelt
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Many thanks gentlemen for your advice. I'm definitely getting out there and pretty much already assumed the "school of life" is my mentor for bees too. I have no problem giving my time and labor for free as their are answers to questions that can only be learned by doing repeatedly as opposed to just asking. I've travelled all over New England on weekends for classes, seminars, etc but i think the wife is gettting a little frustrated with my obsession....errr hobby. I think she would draw the line at going on vacation to Boone NC for EAS instead of going to Europe or Hawaii but i'm working on it wearing her down slowly. :shhhh:
 

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This thread reminds me of my younger years in Minnesota raising sheep. We had some big sheep producers (big, by MN standards) and I wanted to become one of them. Most wanted to be helpful to me, but they were busy, time was short, and I often felt like an intrusion on their time. Farming was a 24/7 experience. In many cases, I wanted them to help me solve my problems, provide the resources I needed, be there to answer my million questions, etc.

Today, I'm one of the larger beekeepers in this area (but not the biggest by any stretch of the imagination) and people are asking me to "mentor" them. I've offered classes on beginning beekeeping and I give talks at several local associations. I've allowed several people to "shadow" me for a day. But I just can't accommodate everyone who thinks they want to "get into bees" someday. I admit I've grown impatient with the hundreds of people who like the idea of beekeeping but never take action and get started. If you want to do, then do it.

From my perspective, if there is any perceived reluctance on my part to be helpful, it would be the nature of my personal schedule and work obligations, and the time I manage to squeeze out of the waning daylight to work my bees. Sometimes I don't know I'm headed out to one of my bee yards until I break free from the gravitational forces of the office. Anyone who shadows me has to be ready at a moment's notice. Most beginners want me to meet them on their time, and some of the "problems" they want me to look at in their hives are just normal things in the life of the colony.

A second challenge for me is the work I need to get done in my bee yards versus the time to drive to a beginner's house to look at their hives. Yes, they have a thousand questions. And I've developed certain techniques unique to my cantankerous personality. No, they are not trade secrets, but I've found ways of doing things that beginners like to refute with, "But I read in this book..."

Now it becomes trying to explain how beekeeping has many options. The common response then becomes, "So what way is the best?" If your bees are flourishing, you're doing something right even if it's different than me.

A third challenge for me is my personality. I like working my bees. It's therapeutic. I like disengaging from the office and being out in the woods...alone. Sometimes I tolerate my dog coming with me. In a profession where many people require a high degree of personal time and service, there are times I just want to escape and be alone. I don't need the company.

A fourth challenge to my attempts to be helpful is the nature of beekeeping. Bees die. Colonies abscond. Some hives don't make any honey. It's not like the books tell you. I've had beginners install a package in May (too late in my opinion) and they're asking where to get the best deal on canning jars for all the honey they're going to harvest in June.

What people see in me has been an education in process since 1981.

My solution to these challenges is that I generally limit my involvement to two or three people who have shown the intitiative and motivation to become beekeepers. I highly recommend for the members of our local club to "buddy-up" with another beekeeper and go out and look at their hives. No one is an expert, but the knowledge shared is helpful.

In my fantasy world, I would retire and do nothing but work bees, sell honey and help others find the same enjoyment I do in beekeeping. My wife reminds me to keep my day job. And that's reality.

Grant
Jackson, MO www.maxhoney.homestead.com
 

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Grant, I don't think anyone could have said that better. I'm no where near expert by any means, and most of my knowledge comes from beekeeping forums. Most of the issues you face I struggle with every day. Besides the obvious, "well you have ten hives, you must be making a ton of money" nonsense.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
CB
Great website..thanks!

Grant
I was slowly coming to that realization with my own mentoring with new beeks in our club and my interactions with bigger more experienced beeks but you put my thoughts down very eloquently in writing. I talked with a couple of commercial beeks this past weekend with no luck but there will be one out their. I just have to find him.

I read your ebook "25 hives" book and it was a very enlightening read! I likened my path to 100 hives as finding my way in the dark on my hands and knees feeling my way along as i go and your book was able to illuminate my path a little bit more. Thanks!

I too enjoy the solitude of working alone in my hives. My wife was getting a little grumpy recently with all the attention i paid on them but i said to her I'm not a sports nut watching sports on weekends, i dont go out to bars with friends on the weekends and since beekeeping is my only "vice" you'll aways know where i am and who i'm with. If i dont have my bees then with all this excess energy i might go back to chasing women like in my single days. So i think she saw the light after that.:D

Still to be hive diving in a couple of hundred hives with every hive telling its own story with a cantankerous old beek over your shoulder you cant get that experience with just books alone. My nack seems to be finding new market opportunites. I approached the prinicpal of one of our elementary schools whose eyes lit up about doing a honey sale drive instead of selling the usual chocolate bars for a buck. $10/a jar with the school's logo and little ribbons made by the students around it.
 
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