I recently had the opportunity to interview Greg Rogers of Haw Creek Honey. Greg became the main supplier of the raw honey used to brew Shanti Elixirs soon after I started this company. Jun caught on so quickly that I didn’t have time to expand my own apiary. It is a dream of mine to grow our Blissful Bee Apiary and to provide educational opportunities, however, in the meantime, we are fortunate to live in an area with so many beekeepers. In fact, NC has more beekeepers than any other state. I hope you enjoy the interview to follow as much as I did.
Shanti Volpe (SV): As you know, June 17th-23rd is Pollination Celebration Week and we are excited to be interviewing you for our newsletter. Thank you for being willing to participate and for sharing some of your insights with us. So, tell us a bit about yourself. What is your background and how did you become interested in beekeeping?
Greg Rogers (GR): I was always kind of a nature kid and had pet snakes, turtles, and always had an interest in nature and wildlife. I then got interested in organic gardening too and got the bees as a part of that. When I first moved to Asheville I got some hives and they did very well and made a lot of honey. I have been beekeeping since 1982 so for 37 years now.
(SV): When you first learned about beekeeping did you teach yourself or have you had mentors?
(GR): We have a fabulous bee club here in Asheville, Buncombe County Beekeepers, and I also learned that there is a lot of esoteric knowledge. I’m also a voracious reader. There are lots of bee books and a national bee journal. I was in my mid-twenties when I started and latched onto the older guys who really knew what they were doing. They were very open to sharing their wisdom. I would only try to bother them once a month at the bee meetings because after a month of working in the hives I would have some questions. Because of my biology background, my approach to beekeeping was more scientific.
(SV): Are you mentoring anyone now?
(GR): I am a regular speaker at the bee meetings and I have half a dozen people that call me and ask me how to do things but I’m always surprised at how few people want to rely on my years of knowledge these days… learning from the elders that are right in front of you seems to be a thing of the past. An expression that my wife and I love is “The expert is in front of you”. People seem to rely too heavily on the internet when they have experts all around.
(SV): What about now? What are your main sources of information about bees and beekeeping?
(GR): There are good forums online and The American Bee Journal. I read several times per month and keep up with the research. In order to do beekeeping at a professional level, you do need to keep up with the current research especially about treating mites.
(SV): Do you consider beekeeping a career or a hobby in your life?
(GR): For me, it went from a small hobby of 10 hives to a career with 400 hives. I was a builder and carpenter with the bees on the side and gradually built it up over about 15 years where I could do the bees all of the time.
(SV): What does your beekeeping operation look like? How many hives do you have? Do you have any help?
(GR): I currently have 400 hives scattered over 11 different locations. Sometimes I get help from my two teenagers and from friends. When you have 300-500 hives you can pretty much do that by yourself. I found the sweet spot for me with 400. There is a demand for more honey but then I would have to hire help.
(SV): How much honey do you produce and sell? Do you sell anything else? What about beeswax?
(GR): I sell about 30-40,000 pounds of honey per year. I also sell some beeswax and some live starter hives.
(SV): How often do you get stung? Have you looked into apitherapy? Do you think the bee stings have helped your health?
(GR): Every time I go into the bee yard but just on my hands. I just quickly pull out the stinger and move on. I’m so used to it that it doesn’t really bother me. I don’t know much about apitherapy so it’s hard to say but I’ve been told I look like a fairly well-preserved 60-year-old.
(SV): What are your favorite and least favorite parts of beekeeping?
(GR): My favorite part is working with the bees on a bright sunny day and having a wonderful outside job in a beautiful place here in Western North Carolina. My least favorite would be loading up and moving bees to other locations. It’s very hard work that is done to make better honey in a different spot.
(SV): What would you recommend to those interested in getting started? Do you have any advice or specific resources to recommend?
(GR): If you are truly interested in taking a beekeeping course and learn to properly take care of the bees. There is a responsibility just like any pet which includes treating them for their diseases. If you have a horse, a dog, or a cat you would take care of it and make sure that it was healthy. Honey Bees are non-native and invasive and they compete with native bees for resources. We have them in order to be able to eat. They pollinate our crops and they give us honey. We have a responsibility to treat them like livestock to feed them and care for them and give them the medicine that they need. I would also say go get some bees and start beekeeping because only then will you know what to ask.
(SV): Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy spring harvest to answer some questions for us. How can folks get your honey?
(GR): My honey is available at Earth Fare, The French Broad Food CO-OP, and the WNC Farmers Market.