The beginning of Smokey Creek Bee Farm is a humble one. It's owner, Justin, entered the world of beekeeping when he took Dr. Ambrose's "Intro to Bees and Beekeeping" while at NC State University in the Fall of 2004 (because the class had a reputation for being incredibly fun and easy). Upon completing the class, Justin then took "Advanced Beekeeping" with Dr. Tarpy in the Spring of 2005. A few short months thereafter, Justin acquired a nuc (a miniature hive of bees) from a breeder near Harrisburg, Pa and drove them down to Raleigh, NC.
Between 2005 and 2011, Justin maintained his ever growing hives as a hobby. The world the bees lived in, with their intricate set of rules and organizational structures, fascinated him. Starting in 2011, Justin realized he had more honey than he knew what to do with, so he started selling some of the honey under the name of Smokey Creek Bee Farm.
Smokey Creek Bee Farm has grown, and we now manage anywhere between 30 and 60 colonies, depending on the time of year (and what our workload allows us to take care of). We keep our bees using practices we set forth that we believe are best for the bees and the rest of the environment. We practice as many organic and natural methods as we can, while still allowing us to raise healthy bees.
We harvest our honey, pollen, and beeswax ourselves, and do our best to keep it in it's raw, natural, unheated and unprocessed state as possible, to keep it just the way nature intended (and the way you used to be able to get it 100 years ago)!
We attempt to do as may things in house as possible. The honey you buy touched two containers before making it to your jar. First, it was the wax comb the bees stored it in. Second, once it was extracted from the comb it went into our honey bottling tank. Then your jar. One human (and several million bees) oversaw that production. No middle men, no packagers or wholesalers. Simple.
In addition to producing honey, pollen and beeswax, we also make our own queens, whenever time permits, creating as much of a "local bee" as nature will allow.
In addition, we make some limited skin care items (lip balm, skin balm, and lotions), and just enjoy being with our bees.
We hope you enjoy our products as much as we enjoyed making them for you.
Is Our Honey Organic?
We are often asked if our honey is organic. Unfortunately, the answer isn't too simple. Traditional farming practices for many of the crops you purchase at the grocery store allow for the adoption of organic practices, resulting in an organic product. For example, if you buy a potato that was grown in soil that was pesticide free, using organic methods, from stock that wasn't grown using chemicals or pesticides, you have an organic potato. It doesn't matter what the neighbor used on his field (or front lawn).
But beekeeping is a little different. A worker bee can fly up to 3 miles away to find nectar or pollen. That's 3 miles in any direction, which would cover approximately 28 square miles worth of land (or almost 18,000 acres). When a bee travels that distance, she won't discriminate on a food source. If it looks good, she'll take it. That will include blackberry nectar from the local organic farm, and dandelion nectar from the neighbor's front lawn that was sprayed with chemicals.
Even if you are able to locate a hive in the center of 18,000 acres of organic land, there is no guarantee that the land wasn't used for non-organic farming practices in the past. Some of the chemicals and pesticides may still have residual levels in the soil. So that means you have to find a location that is surrounded by 18,000 acres of land that wasn't used for farming (or residential or commercial) use in the past 50 years. The only place on planet earth that I know of that fits that bill are certain areas of Brazil. But I'm sure others exist.
Ultimately, I can't control where my bees go (and they probably know better than I do about what they need anyway). But I can control what I put into the hives. Bees are plagued with issues: potential bacterial, viral or fungal infections, parasites (varroa mites), and predators (bears) to name a few. Beekeepers use chemical, biological, and cultural controls to maintain these issues. Some use harsh chemicals. Instead, I use organic treatment methods, including the use of integrated pest management (IPM) strategies and the use of organic acids to keep these issues under control, while still raising healthy bees.
Ultimately, we use organic practices in our hives, but due to the nature of beekeeping we aren't certified organic.