A Sweet Local Company: Bee Friends Farm

A couple of months ago, I was over at Diamond D Horse Ranch for an event and ran into Bee Friends Farm and their honey products. At first, I didn’t think it was local, the logo and packaging just looked very corporate and national. I’m a huge honey fan and am always buying local honey, so I was shocked to find that it was a Jacksonville-based company.

I bought a bunch of items and took a couple of quick product photographs in our studio and I wanted to share some info about them as well as our own personal review!

Product Photography of Bee Friends Farms honey, labels and logo.

They had a product that I had never seen before called Roasted Toasted Salted Pecan Honey. They call it pecan pie in a jar. If you love pecans and honey, this is amazing. I honestly wasn’t sure what I would think of it, but I hid it from my kids so I wouldn’t have to share. I bought pecans and added it to the jar and added honey and it’s not the same, but it is getting me through my withdrawals! LOL.

I bought some for my mother in law as well and she said she thought it was weird but when she tasted it fell in love with it as well!

The company is run by third generation beekeepers. Leach has been a draftsman, engineer and so much more. When the market crashed his successful cabinetry business fell with it and he was looking for something new.

Michael had always learned a lot from oral history and getting into hives so he started selling bee equipment in 2009 and then in 2013 moved over to honey production as Bee Friends Farm.

Brentley Stead is the Marketing Director for Bee Friends Farm, though she says, Bee Friends Farm Wrangler is more accurate. She got her start with the company after college and says that they run the company full time and it’s a lot more time consuming than folks think!

“Between maintaining our retail stores (you can find a map of our local retailers here), bottling honey, taking care of bees, selling honey at events and doing educational events there’s a lot to get done,” she says. “We have about 400 hives right now and we are looking to expand to 700 by the fall!”

They are currently located right off of I10 and Lane Ave but are migratory beekeepers which means they move the bees depending on what blooms are in season.

What has been the hardest part about working with family, as a family run business?

Having a family run business means we can focus on what needs to be done because we all chip in for tasks that must be accomplished for the business to move forward. That might mean test tasting products, late nights moving bees, cleaning toilets, running around making deliveries the possibilities are endless and it isn’t always glamorous. Because we are all in this together, we get it done together. 

Christie, Michael’s wife, and their three children are always pitching in. At markets, with creative projects and more they are always willing to help! Christie is also the mastermind behind why our Creamed Honey is so delicious. She plays a big role in our fundraising programs for schools as well. 

Can people visit the farm?

We wish we could say yes to this request and we are working on it! For now, we have a couple of great opportunities: You can come visit us the first Saturday of every month when we host a bee mentoring workshop with the Jacksonville Beekeepers Association which is a very cool way to get some hands-on education and meet fellow beekeepers.

We also host a Honey Tasting Workshop with Congaree and Penn practically every month. You can find info on both opportunities on our website – and if we start to open up the farm social media would know first! We are also excited to announce our upcoming Honey Bee Festival on August 17th. Fans can find more info on the event here: https://beefriendsfarm.com/pages/honey-bee-festival

FUN STUFF:

What is your favorite thing to do around Jacksonville?

We have some great outdoor opportunities in Jacksonville like the Arboretum, farm visits at Congaree and Penn, taking a book to Memorial Park, hanging beachside, biking trails and more. 

When your family comes to town, what is something you guys always have to do while they are in town?

There are so many great markets around town and pop-up events picking one of those is a great way to spend a day! 

What’s your favorite bee related movie?

We are loving the bee/honey segment in the four-part series Rotton which you can find on Netflix. It’s very accurate – know your beekeeper! 

What’s your current obsession? 

Craft beverages are super fun right and we’ve been experimenting with other local businesses in town! For example, Wicked Barley specializes in meads and they have been using different types of our honey to make some magic happen, or Hive Alive who specializes in Jun Kombucha which uses honey instead of sugar. Cocktails are all the rage too (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and working with Volstead downtown and Wildcrafters in Riverside – an upcoming alcohol-free bar –  is always exciting for us. 

Where do you see Bee Friends in 5 years?

We hope to still be producing the best quality honey in North Florida! We are also currently working towards expanding into beekeeping equipment and selling bees again. There’s up and coming beekeeping community and we want to help make sure they get quality supplies and bees. Maybe get into more backyard beekeeper education – stay tuned! 

My daughter’s favorite lemon creamed honey!

Favorite dessert?

Honey!! In all seriousness, there is a local ice cream maker in Springfield, Thomas Reed Creamery, who makes small batches for his neighbors and he makes some honey-based icecreams that are divine! 

We also specialize in Cream Honey which is a crystallized version of our Jacksonville Wildflower and then we add an infusion of spices or extracts. That crystallization is what gives it that thick, rich texture. There is no added sugar or dairy. My favorite is Mexican Vanilla it is rich and smooth and the vanilla almost mellows out the sweetness.

Favorite restaurant?

Oh, we love so many, but are pretty partial to spots like Bread and Board, Vagabond Coffee, Ugly Cupcake, and Vitality Bowls. 

Education is very important to Bee Friends and they try to do a lot of outreach in schools and troops/kids club (which they do not charge for).

We bring our observation hive and bee suit and the kids can’t get enough! We offer fundraising programs for those schools as well – it makes a nice change of pace from wrapping paper and cheesecakes. 

We also do special events and people can book our Tasting Experience for weddings, corporate events, parties etc. 

What if I want to be a beekeeper or want more info?

For those looking to become beekeepers, interested in beekeeping we recommend coming out to our upcoming event on August 17th the Bee Friends Farm Honey Bee Festival. All of the local Beekeeping Clubs will be in attendance and available to answer your questions! 

The Jacksonville Beekeepers Association is an amazing organization and we work closely with them. Any time anyone is interested in learning more about beekeeping or our fabulous community the Jacksonville Beekeepers Association is a fabulous year around resource. Find more from them at JaxBees.com

FIND THEM:

Instagram: @beefriendsfarm

Facebook: Bee Friends Farm 

Website: www.beefriendsfarm.com

https://www.facebook.com/events/394541568060756/

Christy Whitehead is a corporate and product photographer located in Jacksonville, Florida. She photographs headshots and products for many types of companies. She often features local companies and products on her blog that she thinks other people might find interesting as well!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *