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Greetings All,

Well after hanging my commercial veil and smoker up 15 years ago I have once again been craving that venom addiction. Within the next year my family will be transferred to North Carolina, and knowing that part of the country, my interest in commercial beekeeping has spiked.

Years ago, when I hung up my hat, we were only getting 43 cents per pound for ELA in upstate NY. The market was good but just like it is now; there was a lot of strife. Pollination fees were also weak at that time and an over abundance of self proclaimed “commercial beekeepers” existed diluting contracts.

I have considered starting up small and building up over a 5 year period paying for things out of pocket each year preventing that dreaded bank loan. Hence my question to you professionals;

If you could do it all over again what would you do? Would you stay with commercial honey production, go into package or nuc production, strictly pollination or a combination of the above? I have also considered going the supply route but much research has proven the market to be saturated for this aspect of the industry.

My goal is to build up to 1000 colonies in 5 years via annual splits, yard purchases, and perhaps after almond purchases. I know it can be done since I have done it before, although I am older and have more liquidity! I do have to say, I miss the outdoors, the exercise, the freedom and certainly the challenge to determine what is happening with a weak link.

Any advice or discouragement would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!
 

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Buy yourself a place on a busy road and retail your honey. You'll never have any concerns about imports or cheap money grubbing packers. Beekeeping is the easy part, but only half the battle.
 

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NeonBee,
Attend a few meetings and learn what has changed over the last 15 years.
Touch base with a few commercial beekeepers in your new area.

The internet is a good resource as long as you remember about half ( other than the commercial list) of what is posted is suspect at times.

I believe if you pull up your experience from years ago keeping bees alive and update a bit you will be successful.

Bees in the U.S. today are not the bees you worked years ago. Very fragile today!

Commercial beekeepers are feeding a higher amount of syrup and in many cases a bunch of pollen sub which was simply not done decades ago on the level done today.

Iowa & South Dakota were top honey producing areas decades ago but many areas of both seem to produce poor crops year after year now.

beekeeping is always changing and those beekeepers not willing to change become part of beekeeping history.

Good luck!
 

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Thank you all who have responded on this board and those who suspected they knew who I was and gave me a ring; it has been refreshing to hear some past voices. Also thank you to the people I have contacted who have indulged me with their experiences and advice.

Although being out of the industry for 15 years, I have had the great opportunity each year to work with large and small operations around the country. Specifically Montana, Idaho, New York, and Texas. My interest and love of bees, perhaps addiction, has inspired me to keep my hand a little battered.

The variety of operations has certainly been a great learning experience. Being picky myself, I have met folks who have overwhelmed me with their maintenance, cleanliness and their record keeping. Other operations that I have visited and lent a day hand to I would not chew on a piece of burr comb, they were that sloppy. The bottom line is common sense has prevailed. Of all the operations I have seen and visited one thing sticks in mind. Those owners and employees that are fueled by passion for what they do and those who do not look upon beekeeping as a job but as a lifestyle have been the most successful and profitable. The most common complaint I have heard was the existence of the lack of hard working people, especially in today’s laid back society. Being a current business owner myself, I truly understand this sentiment.

Much research still has to be done before a decision is made, but I am grateful to the fine people in this industry who have been eager to share their experiences. Too bad many other industries do not share the same cohesive bond of information exchange, but then again beekeepers are a unique breed indeed.
 

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I think that the best way to go is let the business grow itself and dont borrow the money. I live in North Ga. and I can tell you that the honey flows around here (sourwood ) and others have gotten to where they are not predictable anymore. to be successful i think you have the deviserfied and not go in just one direction
 

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and don't borrow.

cheap used materials for covers and bottoms, a good table saw, used equipment that will last, new equipment that doesn't (frames and boxes!) keep your capital costs low. If you bootstrap your business for 5 years and don't take any money then you haven't made any money have you? You can spend a lot of money on trucks and pallet equipment but it is real money and if you don't make any money it is a big waste. takes a long time to build up big like sheri&john for example.

you can borrow, make the jump up, then fall off from weather or disease and be back to square zero.

can't count the number of growing sideliners that say 'i could make money if I didn't have to keep buying equipment to expand'.
 

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Many sideliners are sideliners because they do not have a business plan. I always plan five years out. Always with backup plans.

In beekeeping timing and careful planning are key.

Like all other business commercial beekeeping requires capital. Without careful planning and goals (size you wish to end up) growth is awkward ( honey house way to small or perhaps moving hives by hand when a forklift is needed).

Not willing to hire help when needed will limit the size of an operation.

The beekeeper may be the best beekeeper in the world but if a poor manager of help and business then problems will arise.

The "Peter Principal" applies to many operations and should be followed.
In other words once you get to a level you are comfortable with and the operation runs smoothly and is profitable be content.

Buying out every operation in sight and trying to combine to yours can be problematic ( first hand experience) but can put you in a position to make big bucks in a hurry.

Beekeeping is seasonal and being able to buy hives worth the money (spring) and work all season and with luck do pollination and make a crop can pay for the hives making a profit and getting the hives for free. Has been the fast track to large commercial beekeeping for decades.
 

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I remember my dad and brothers buying in big in 1979.We had the best gallberry land in n fla.The bears were awful, one year it rained hard and knocked off the blooms.I thought it was tuff but now after 25 plus years in the factory I wish we had stayed in.Im getting a couple of packages and see if I can build from them good luck to you.
 
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