Why I Keep Bees and Sell Honey (there are easier ways to make a living)

There’s a song in the musical Man of LaMancha that goes “Why does he do the things he does? Why does he do these things?”  Sometimes I sing this to myself as I move from hive to hive, but somehow it becomes “Why do I do the things I do…”.  The answer to WHY I do the things I do is the driving force in both my beekeeping and my honey sales.

Karen Bean of Brookfield Farm, WA, during a seminar on Marketing honey

The Skagit Valley Beekeepers Association.
Photo by Lisa Phillips Round Tuit Farms, Oak Harbor, WA

Hopefully, I imparted this to the Skagit Valley Beekeepers Association when I was the speaker last week.  My topic: A bit about how I keep bees and Marketing.

Marketing doesn’t grip the soul and imagination the way beekeeping does.  But without it, beekeepers don’t have sales and without sales the beekeepers can’t make a living, without the beekeepers the majority of honeybees here in the US (where there are no native honeybees) wont survive.  Marketing is important to both the beekeepers and the bees.

Why one does what one does is the primary aspect of marketing.  If I didn’t love keeping bees and knowing about bees and honey, then I wouldn’t be very good at selling my honey and the honey of other independent Washington state beekeepers (PacificNorthwestHoney.com).

Why Keep Bees

Queen Cells Grafted by Beekeeper Karen Bean of Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, Maple Falls, WA

Happy Grafter

Beekeeping is great: it’s science, nature, art, planning, and just plain luck all rolled into one.  The relatively short lives of honeybees allow me to see changes in multiple generations.  The on-going search for keeping the little darlings alive allows for new experiments and innovations.  The ability to raise ones own queens allows me to manipulate those generations to help my honeybees survive better.  It’s challenging, fun, and, yes, at times depressing when things don’t work out.

Why Sell Honey (there are easier ways to make a living)

Variety of tastes

Honey, Handcrafted Furniture, and beekeeper Bean in Brookfield Farm's market booth at Seattle's Fremont Market

Our Market Booth in Winter

Selling my own raw honey and brokering raw honey is fun too.  I wanted to give folks the opportunity to taste different honeys that are produced in Washington state.  Often people think honey, is honey, is honey.  But honey can taste different from hives two miles apart.  Each area has its own unique styles of honey, and these can change from year to year depending on weather and flower blooms. The honeys we sell come from all parts of Washington: from the northwest, to the southern border to the northeast corner.  Each is remarkably different.  Each is delicious.  Plus I get to meet other beekeepers who are always really interesting people.

Honestly Honey

I also wanted my customers to know the source their honey and to “meet” the beekeepers whose hard work has resulted in the delicious honey.

Raw Buckwheat Honey Label from Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, WA

Our Raw Buckwheat Honey Label – Honey by K Brothers Pollination And Honey, W. Richland, WA

Sourcing the honey was easy : Each jar of raw honey, infused raw honey, and raw honey infused organic vinegar we sell has the name and location of the apiary that produced the honey on the label.  This is not the norm in our area.

 

 

 

Meet The Beekeepers

Speaker Karen Bean of Brookfield Farm points to an image of WA beekeepers

Showing the beekeepers whose honey I carry

“Meeting” the beekeepers in person was not really functional, but this is the Internet age and that offered me a way to introduce the beekeepers.  Each honey we sell has it’s own page at both PacificNorthwestHoney.com and at Walking-Wild.com (our farm site).  The pages describe both the honey and share a bit about the beekeeper.  At market, I simply talk about the beekeepers.  This winter I’m going to set up QR codes for each beekeeper’s page.

 

Encouraging Others To Explore Nature

The exploration of the diversity of honeys leads in conversation to the exploration of nature. Topics at our honey booth can range from how the bees structure their lives to the current state of bee health to the wonderful world of plants and flowers that produce the honey, pollen, and propolis. I really enjoy helping others to explore nature. Bees and honey, photography, video productions, writing, and just walking for weeks on end : I’ve been lucky to experience and share nature in my work throughout my life.

“Why”  gives “How” and “What” a foundation (pun intended)

Logo for Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, Maple Falls, Washington

Our Logo

How I do what I do, came from why I did it.  It’s the logical progression.  It also drives marketing from our logo (a drawing by a friend’s son) to our webpages to our market booth; everything reflects who we are and our love for nature, simplicity, and beekeeping.  I really do believe “Why” is the basis of marketing.

 

The Nuts And Bolts

Marketing does include many more straightforward aspects that include:

Barcodes.   QR Codes.   Blogs.   Twitter.   FacebookFarmers’ Markets.   Wholesale Accounts.

And many more tasks that make up selling.  There’s too many to write of here.  And, as I’m always discovering, they can seem too many to keep up with – before posting this I had to fix two of the above pages (I’d rather be with the bees).

 “WHY” is the Foundation

Bees build a foundation before they expand their comb.  Just like them, marketing needs a firm foundation and that is WHY we do what we do. Our love of what we do and the reasons that brought us to beekeeping attract customers and also keep us committed to the bees.

That’s the news from Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey in Maple Falls, Washington.

Why did you take up beekeeping?  Where has it led you?

 

 

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About brookfieldfarmhoney

Brookfield Farm, a small off-grid apiary in Maple Falls, WA focuses on the beauty and bounties of Washington’s wilderness. I sell honey from our bees, whose naturally-treated, antibiotic-free hives are home to bees who fly Washington’s mountains and farmlands. Herbal salves and lip balms from Brookfield beeswax. Delicately infused honeys and vinegars. Varietal honeys from independent Washington beekeepers. Karen Edmundson Bean: beekeeper, photographer. Her love of the wilderness inspires her to discover new ways of bringing the wonders of nature to others. Brookfield Farm : the tastes, textures, sounds, and images of nature.
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