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Updated on: 11/05/13
the line between what can be labeled organic and what cannot is fraught with
I eat lunch in my laboratory with my students most days, followed by my daily, near-legendary nap on the lab couch. Some days, though, I “do” lunch, invited out by one of my university’s administrators to break bread with business people from the community and share with them some of the activities that Simon Fraser University is engaged in that benefit the world at large.
I did lunch the other day with a particularly unusual corporate leader, who got me thinking about organic honey. This fellow came from the antithesis of a corporate background. He grew up on a marginal farm in a small community on Vancouver Island, spent years in India studying with a guru, and eventually returned to Canada to start a fringe natural food restaurant and grocery store.
Sounds like your stereotypical hippie, except he is a person who combines a deep religious bent with extraordinary business sense, and he grew his fringe vegetarian hangout into a $70 million a year business selling organic cereals. He is now the largest producer of organic cereals in North America and employs hundreds of people, yet he has retained his spiritual quest and deep involvement in the ethical and religious beliefs that he connected with on his trip to India.
I asked him where he finds honey that meets the stringent organic criteria for inclusion in his cereal products, and the only source he could remember was from a small, obscure island off the coast of Australia. I later contacted his procurement office, and they gave me a few other leads, but generally they use non-honey sweeteners in their products, partly because organic honey is notoriously difficult to come by.
This tweaked my interest, and I tentatively ventured into the organic world to find out more. The first thing I noticed was how cleverly the terms “organic” and “natural” have become intertwined. Even by dictionary definition, they are difficult to separate. “Natural” means present in or produced by nature, and “organic” is defined as simple, healthful and close to nature, as in an organic lifestyle.
Some beekeepers take advantage of this overlapping etymology by subtly combining the organic and natural images. One honey producer operates a farm named “So and So’s Organic Farm,” but their honey is discreetly labeled as “natural” rather than “organic,” avoiding the definitional quicksand that quickly absorbs organic producers in a quagmire of regulations.
Some beekeepers argue that all honey is organic, but that is far from the case. Organic foods are governed by official and quasi-official regulations that permit or deny the use of the term “organic.” The intention of these regulations is to provide clear guidelines as to what is organic and what is not, so that consumers can trust the integrity of organically grown and processed foods. “Organic” confers a status on foods certifying that they have been produced without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics or hormones, and also in a manner that could be called “sustainable.”
Drawing the line between what can be labeled organic and what cannot is fraught with detailed arguments about what should be permitted and what is banned. There are a number of independent agencies that certify farm products from the United States and worldwide as organic, and enabling legislation to regulate certification and clarify definitions is expected to become U.S. law this Fall.
For honey, the Organic Trade Association has defined a number of criteria necessary to bestow organic certification. The first is that colonies must be located on certified land, and not within two miles of a sanitary landfall, incinerator, power plant, golf course, city, crops sprayed with prohibited substances or genetically modified crops. In addition, colonies must be managed without using miticides or antibiotics, although formic acid is permitted.
Given just these regulations, it is not surprising that organic honey is difficult to produce. Honey bees in North America are afflicted with mite and bacterial parasites and diseases that require prevention or treatment. For most of us that means synthetic chemical pesticides and antibiotics, banned substances from the organic perspective. It also is difficult to find any agricultural land in North America that can be certified organic over the required distance from an apiary.
The list of certification criteria goes on, and even relatively minor rules are daunting for beekeepers who want to produce organic honey. For example, feeding bees non-organic sugar is unacceptable, unless colonies are inspected and certified as being in a starvation situation. Foundation wax with even a trace of miticide is banned, as is the use of chemical bee repellents, and clipping the wings of queens is prohibited. Finally, a facility that processes both organic and non-organic honey must be emptied and cleaned thoroughly before processing organic honey.
I talked with a number of U.S. packers who market organic honey, and they invariably bring it in from offshore. Indeed, I have yet to find a single certified producer of organic honey in the continental United States. I’m sure one exists, somewhere, but after a day of phone calls without success, it’s fair to conclude they are a rare breed.
I talked with one honey packer who clarified the problem for me. Jeremy from Once Again Nut Butter/Dawes Honey, an upstate New York company that sells many organic products, put it succinctly:
“The problem in the United States is finding clean land in that diameter to keep your bees. We would like to buy domestically, but we haven’t been able to find anyone who can provide it”
The world of organic honey trading is a subculture in itself, and It took many phone calls, e-mail messages and visits to Web sites to track down where certified organic honey packed in the United States does come from. One producer I eventually found works in an isolated area in northern Canada, where the Varroa mite arrived only recently. He has been using formic acid, but is beginning to see high mite numbers that worry him. Another producer works out of an isolated island off the Australian coast, where his bees are free of mites and he can control other disease problems organically. A third supplier comes from Nicaragua, keeping bees in a jungle area without agriculture, and controlling mites successfully enough with formic acid.
Another problem with organic honey is that it is plagued with the same questionable practices that have infiltrated conventional trading in honey, adulteration and contamination. Although inspection of organic honey is more rigorous because of its certification, loads of impure honey sometimes slip through the cracks. Purity is an issue for all sellers and traders of honey, but the organic industry Is even more susceptible to irregularities, and thus particularly quick to drop disreputable producers.
Organic honey production is not particularly profitable, either. One organic honey producer I spoke with told me he used to sell his honey at a 30 percent higher premium than conventional honey, but that advantage has dropped to only about 10 percent. Given the higher costs of running colonies organically, it’s just not lucrative enough for North American producers to attempt.
The organic perspective Is growing and becoming a major component of North American agriculture. Today, about two percent of farm produce is certified organic, and this number is increasing year by year. Prices have dropped, diversity and quality increased, and many consumers have become more astute and picky about the way in which their food products are produced.
I find it ironic that honey, that most natural and pure of products, has not been able to meet the high standards imposed by the organic industry. Some argue that the standards are too high, but to me the death of North American organic honey producers tells us something about what has happened to beekeeping, and to agriculture in general.
Admittedly, it is more difficult to produce organic honey than, say, organic soybeans or corn, because soybeans, corn and other field crops don’t fly from their fields to forage over the wide range that honey bees require. Yet, we also haven’t done enough to minimize the use of conventional synthetic chemical pesticides In our hives, and to eliminate the use of antibiotics.
We need to try harder, and with more focus, to return beekeeping to the pastoral, nature-friendly enterprise It used to be. The organic benchmark Is a good one to aspire to, and a considerable amount of my own research and that across North America is now devoted to moving backward toward those days of purity.
Sure the criteria for organic certification are rigorous, but should we settle for anything but the highest of standards? My personal goal: Someday, I’d like to tell my cereal entrepreneur lunch date that he no longer has to go as far as Australia to find organic honey. Even better, I’m looking forward to the day when I can put the term “organic” on our university’s Heavenly Honey label, with pride.Mark Winston is a professor and researcher at Simon Fraser University. Bumaby, B.C. Canada
Some interesting information about honey.
I have finished transcribing my grandfather's book
"You Can Gross a Million Dollars" word for
word today February 15th, 2012. You can read the individual chapters below and
as soon as I find time I will post a link where the entire thing can be
YOU CAN GROSS A MILLION DOLLARS
By Bernard Draper
Who doesn’t want a big slice of
it? What beekeeper doesn’t want to harvest profitable crops even in bad-weather
years? Even beekeepers who say their bees are just a hobby desire the extra
psychological and financial benefits of maximum production.
Do not think that such production is out of your reach. Starting today, you can begin your climb to heights you never dreamed possible.
for the Sky
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
So you remember being asked the question? Do you remember dreaming up the answer, thinking about the days when you’d be big enough and strong enough and smart enough to ____...to what? You fill in the blank with the dream that enchanted your playing hours.
No doubt your imagination ran wild—saving children from burning homes, leading a posse, healing sick people, parenting a baby, or mixing up new potions.
But then you grew up. And what happened? Did the childhood dreams mature into adult dreams or did the dreaming die as soon as you saw that you were able to pay you basic monthly bills—whether or not you were happy in what you were doing? A SUCCESSFUL PERSON NEVER STOPS DREAMING.
For years I’ve been watching people as they work and as they play. I see a difference between those who dream and those who have given it up forever. Many shop workers are content to work a seven-to-four shift year in and out. It seems they almost become a piece of the machinery, automatically and without thought using their muscles, but never their imaginations. Many homemakers tend to the bare necessities of keeping a house, and spend most of their hours watching daytime television or idly chatting with friends on the phone.
These dreamless people hardly seem aware of the fact that they live in a country where the sky is the limit, a country where dreamers can, and do, break out of their status quo molds. They don’t see that they can use the free enterprise system to its fullest potential. They are not under socialism that suppresses and forbids fulfillment of dreams that stifles a person’s productivity. We live in a land built for dreamers.
The dreamers (who might be running a machine identical to that of the non-dreamer or caring for a similar house) are always thinking up new challenges for themselves, improved methods, or a better life for their families.
Every success begins as a dream in someone’s mind. The colonialists dreamed of freedom before they declared themselves independent of England and before they won the war. The Wright brothers dreamed of flying before they rose off the ground. No one becomes president of the United States who doesn’t first dream about politics and about winning elections.
Dreamers always think in terms of potential. When driving past a swamp, they see a mine of loam. When watching fishermen bring in oysters, they think of pearls. When they see an empty canvas, they envision it covers with an oil landscape. When touching a bolt of cloth, they see a finished garment. When they see a field filled with flowering weeds, they dream of a honey crop.
Two growing companies, Mary Kay Cosmetics and Amway, have dangled dreams and potential in front of prospective distributors. They talk of financial independence and pumping the best from the American free enterprise system.
Although I see that their focus on status symbols such as pink Cadillacs and Winnebagos can easily be mis-used, I, nevertheless, applaud their founders and leaders who dared to dream what seemed to be an impossible dream. Because they first dreamed, they allow others to follow in their train.
But Amway and Mary Kay distributors have no corner on dreams. Someone before me has said it much better that I could: “It’s not the earning power one has but the yearning power” that motivates daring dreams.
Think about it. Did your hopes for the future end when you settled into your first job or your present job? Do you ever let yourself feel that you have “arrived” or that things will “always be this way”? If so, dare to shake off the cobwebs and think of how things could be. Dare to take on the attitude of one of my friends who is a pastor. Repeatedly he set a challenge before his congregation: “When this church no longer dreams dreams, I will know that my ministry here is over. I will move on to a new community.” He saw dreaming as one of the vital signs of the church’s life.
Some people think that dreaming hours are wasted hours. For me just the opposite is true. I look forward to the evening hours I spend lying in the cool grass of my backyard, looking up toward the cloud and star formations - and dreaming. The vastness of the heavens, stretching from horizon to horizon and in all directions, feeds my idea-bank until it is stuffed full. These are never wasted hours, for, although some creative ideas pop, in an instant, out of the sky, some have to build up for what seems like endless hours before they are whole and finished and full of sense. Sometimes a flash of inspiration will hit like lightning, but thinking through the exact working of the ides may, then, take hours, even weeks of star-gazing or lawn-mowing or dish-washing - whatever activity makes you most able to let your creative imagination run wild. Go ahead - Dare to Dream.
Have you ever quickly dismissed
someone’s tales of future escapades by thinking, “Oh, he’s just a dreamer.” When
the word “just” precedes the word I love so much, it loses all its power and
Better than a fairy’s magic wand,
one familiar four-letter word will transform dreams into realities. That word is
work – work that involves commitment to a plan that leads toward a goal.
The Bible explains a truth that works time and time again: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt. 7:7).
Does a hockey player give up trying to score because he keeps being pushed back by the goalie? Of course not, if that were the case the game would become senseless, even a laughing matter.
Jim Bakker, a host of the PTL Club, a TV talk show, compares life to a hockey game. In our efforts to succeed, we will often be confronted by goalies, who see their purpose as keeping us from scoring, keeping us from succeeding.
Anyone can fail or fall, but only the person with stick-to-itiveness will get up and try again – and again. Someone has well said, “The difference between success and failure is so very small, like 49 percent as opposed to 51 percent.” Trying one more time to fulfill our dreams may just bring the sought-after victory.
Think about it. Wouldn’t life be boring if there were no challenges in life, no hurdles to jump over, and no puzzles to put together? And who receives the most satisfying reward – the person who gives up when things get hard? The person who reaps the emotional and material benefits of finishing or winning is always the enviable party.
It is a story that seems as old as time, but the tale of the tortoise and the hare will always be one of my favorites. The rabbit, who would have been favored in all the averages, forgot one big principle. He didn’t run long enough and far enough to finish, adequately, the race he set out to win. It’s a story so familiar that we forget the great meaning in its message: We can’t give up until we’ve run, and won, the whole race.
I once heard George Meany say, “Some people are like a railroad engine, huffing and puffing back and forth on a rail siding – making a lot of noise, but not going anywhere.” Did you ever know anyone who fit that description?
WE NEED TO HAVE OUR MINDS FOCUSED ON OUR SURE DESTINATIONS. You may, at first, think that “sticking with it” and “concentrating” are the same thing, that this chapter is only a repeat of the last. But think about the phrases more closely. Some people stick to their work – day and night, year in and year out, they work, work, work. But how much of their time is spent accomplishing anything? How many hours a day are they really sidetracked from the goals that will accomplish their dreams. Laziness is not the only enemy of success. Unfocused and pointless busy-ness will just as easily cause failure. The apostle Paul tells us how important this principle was in his own life: “This one thing I do…I press toward the mark” (Phil. 3:13-14).
A flight plan is useless if the pilot does not follow it. Of course, momentarily diverts from his preplanned course. Only a fool would fly a plane straight into sure disaster just for the sale of keeping to the plan. Any pilot has two goals: His primary goal is the safe return to land of his passengers. His secondary goal is delivering them to a specific destination. A pilot keeps the first goal foremost in his mind. He will make minor or even major adjustments in his course to assure his passengers’ safe return to land. But barring emergencies, a good pilot must stick to the secondary goal of getting his people to a certain city. He doesn’t go twenty miles out of his way just to get a good look at the Grand Canyon. If he did, he would, of course, all the while be working, putting in hours, adjusting controls, but he would not be getting closer to his destination—and that is what is important.
An Old Testament prophet, Nehemiah, was building up the wall of the city of Jerusalem, years before they had been torn down by the enemies of the Israelites. The city still had enemies (they never let up for a minute), and they were trying to distract Nehemiah from the job that was so important to him. In answer to their jibes he said, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.”
For him the answer was simple. He knew exactly what needed to be done and would spend his precious daylight hours on that job alone.
Let me refer again to campus life. Do you remember and frantic, late-night cramming for an important exam? The tension might have caused a migraine headache or a sleepless night. Let’s hope it happened only once, but if it was a routine occurrence, your life jumped from one crisis to the next. What difference would daily concentration have made?
One beekeeper friend of mine purchased fifty hives, knowing they wouldn’t be delivered for several months. The months passed by and the hives were delivered. As we used to say, the man was caught with his pants down. He hadn’t yet made up one super. He had to borrow supers from us until he prepared his own.
Don’t get me wrong. This man was not lazy. He was just spread too thin, trying to do so much that he was not properly prepared for an important date.
Each day we must set priorities of what is most important to us. One young beekeeper came one day and said he wanted to sell out his two-year-old business. He had decided what meant the most to him. He didn’t have time to keep bees and court his girlfriend. Another acquaintance failed in business because he bought boats, snowmobiles and went on hunting trips. He simply didn’t have time or money for both pleasure and business.
People who succeed in business have many things in common. A January 1982 Reader’s Digest article titled “What Makes Tycoons Tick?” makes seven general observations about super-succeeders.
1. Work is the number one passion of their lives. They admit that they are work-a-holics and that work takes precedence over their wives, children, vacations, and hobbies.
2. Tycoons possess endless energy and don’t think of admitting to fatigue. Such a confession made by themselves or other is considered a lack of dedication or an admission of weakness.
3. Power, even more than money, motivates tycoons to work and to succeed. They want to give orders and make the decisions of how their enterprise will operate.
4. They thrive on competition and take great pleasure in winning.
5. They refuse to quit. They may or may not be exceptionally intelligent, but they are exceptionally persistent.
6. Tycoons are more aggressive and less fearful than the “average” successful man.
7. With all their hearts they believe in their jobs, their products, their companies, and in the free enterprise system that makes their success possible.
These seven points make one thing clear. The tycoons do not allow themselves to be distracted from what they see as important: making it big.
I refer to this magazine article to illustrate a point: These tycoons do not allow themselves to be distracted from what they see as important – making it big. They never lose sight of or wander from their one-way track to the top. Personally, I do not advise that one’s business be more important to a man then his family or his service to God, but choices must be made as to what distractions you will allow to interfere.
Only you can decide. How important is your business? Be a dreamer, a jumper, a worker, a planner, and a concentrator. Be a successful beekeeper.
“But we’ve always done it this way.” Have you ever heard the phrase in answer to one of your ingenious ideas? And has hearing it ever tempted you to sidetrack the “system” and experiment on your own? New gadgets and machinery are constantly being invented by people who try to improve on old techniques.
I was brought up in dairy farm country and, when I was a boy, I knew the equipment and the “system” well. But that was forty years ago. Now, when I step inside a present-day milking parlor, I am a stranger to the scene. I could no more walk in and “help out” than I could assist, with any positive effect, a railroad engineer. I do not know the machinery, the new procedures, the new methods of recording keeping and feeding.
Beekeeping is a different story. Although I have only been in the business for eight years, I have read enough to know that methods have not been vastly improved in many years. My three sons, my employees, and I often find ourselves discussing new beekeeping procedures. We’re eager to increase our production, minimize our risks of loss, and lighten our work loads. WE EXPERIMENT. WE LISTEN. WE OBSERVE.
Let me share some of our discoveries and, in so doing, encourage you to try our methods. In turn, I hope you will feel free to share with us your workable procedures.
One beekeeper friend mentioned the value of keeping new comb in the brood chamber. His observation was meager and short, but we thought we’d explore the effect of various combs. We tested and experimented and noted that he was right; new comb “turns a queen on” and increases her egg-laying capacity. We replaced all the brood-chamber comb, and now replace all brood-chamber comb at least every three years.
We developed another valuable technique after hearing and thinking about the implications of the bees “peaking out.” We learned to anticipate the heavy flows – the flowering of the basswood, the goldenrod. We wanted to get our hives dynamite strong so they would gather every possible bit of nectar and produce the highest potential crop our fields would allow. To maximize their production we started to feed them which stimulated the queen to lay. We experimented and were delighted to find that our theories worked.
We follow the nectar flow very closely. We always know what the workers are currently drawing from. In summer fields, we have noticed that almost no nectar is gathered between the early July basswood flow and the late August goldenrod. Because the bee start eating our spring harvest in the middle of the summer, we decide to take off the early honey and feed the bees during the midsummer. This way we do not lose any product and we keep the queen laying strong – for maximum goldenrod harvest.
We learned yet a third technique by listening to a fellow beekeeper who said he kept two-queen units. Again we experimented. Every two-queen unit out-produced those with one queen. Later we discovered yet another benefit. Should a single-queen unit lose its queen, one of the two-queen units can be moved to the queenless hive with no loss of production.
On a recent trip to Florida, we observed a successful beekeeper who kept a series of nuc boxes in his fields. He had a handy supply of queens that were in various stages of development. Whenever a need arose, he could transfer a nuc, frame, bees, and queen to a hive. He had discovered an almost guaranteed acceptance of the new queen, an, of course, he had a steady supply of queens that he could sell to other beekeepers.
Who doesn’t have a problem with swarms? Well, we no longer do. A new anti-swarm technique prevents virtually all such mass exoduses. When we see swarm cells, we replace chamber number two with an empty super, preferably one made up with new foundation. We then place the super that was in position two in position three, on top of the empty super. Try it. It works remarkably well. You just need to learn to keep an eye on your hive, so that you are not taken by surprise.
In the last two years, Millerton, Pennsylvania seems to have been invaded with an army of skunks who love to eat not honey, but bees. One skunk will eat as much as one-half pound of bees in one night. We didn’t need a calculator to figure out that they could strip our hives if we didn’t do something about them. Besides cutting production, skunks make the remaining bees bad-tempered. We did find a solution. We designed a one-inch wire mesh guard that fits on the front of a hive. The mesh allows the bees to fly freely without damage to their wings, and the skunks are kept about eight inches from the hive entrance. They can’t get enough bees to keep them happy, so they give up and look elsewhere for food.
We have learned another lesson well. We never winter weak colonies. We never nurse along weak hives, as we are then only breeding poor stock. We advise killing such hives and stripping off the honey, or, if the weather permits, you might want to split the hive into nucs and add new queens for increases. We always encourage our strong hives by giving them plenty of room and following our anti-swarm techniques. The best harvests come when we reverse the procedure of most beekeepers who split the strong and nurse the weak. For big profits, keep the strong big and healthy and don’t waste too much time and effort on those that never got going in the first place.
Most beekeepers split their hives or initiate other “maneuvers” whenever it is convenient – when they are ready for such a job. We have learned that such procedures produce the best results if performed when the BEES are ready, when the weather conditions are favorable, and when the nectar flow is right.
Have you tried spending some time determining how you can “milk” your own hives of all their marketable products or services? Of course, your primary product will be honey. But are your bees capable of producing much more than you are gathering? Have you considered migrating them? Midwestern and West Coast beekeepers make a practice of moving their hives with the nectar flow. I know one Georgian producer who winters his bees near his home, goes to Florida in February and after the nectar flow starts moving them north, stopping on various flows, until, in late summer, he ends up in Wisconsin. We are not quite as extreme in our moves; we keep our hives in Millerton, Pennsylvania all summer and take them to Georgia for the winter.
This fall, with gasoline prices and labor costs high, we are trying something new. We will truck only one load of bees south; the remainder (about 550 hives) will be stored in a dairy barn. We will extract most of their honey, feed them heavily in October and then, in November, move them to a rented barn. We will shut out all daylight and closely monitor the temperature and humidity. We believe winter losses and honey consumption will be drastically reduced. This will aid in early spring build-up and increased profits. If for no other reason, consider placing your bees in a building for early brood rearing. That’s when most hives are lost due to winter-kill.
We’ve also learned that a metal stamp (1/4 inch or 3/8 inch) works well, replacing the larger branding iron. This way, the mark isn’t readily obvious, yet you know where it is. We suggest marking each super in the same place. It’s faster and much cheaper than the conventional branding iron.
If you winter-feed your bees, consider using crystallized corn syrup. A six inch knife works well in applying a generous amount on top bars of brood chambers. We’ve used and recommend a new product called Bio-Serv (a complete bee food) for winter feeding. It’s the size of a waffle and also is placed on the brood frames.
A man from Virginia called and said mixing sugar syrup in a honey bottler with paddles makes his work much easier. We heartily agree.
Check your beehouse. Are you using all your equipment? We’re amazed at the amount of unused supplies and machinery we see on other people’s land. If you haven’t used something in a year’s time, you’ll likely not use it again; it’s obviously not necessary. Get the equipment working or sell or trade it for what you need. Efficiency in production and maximization of profits demands full use of machinery and supplies.
For added income, you could sell nucs, bees, packages, or whole hives. You could produce and sell queen. You could rent bees to pollinate local orchards. Speaking of pollen, the market is increasing daily, as news of its nutritional value and health benefits spreads. A hive can gather many pounds a season; what a gold mine! Propolis also is selling more than ever before. It has been called a natural antibiotic, and members of my family can attest to its healing effects on skin disorders and irritations. And don’t forget the growing market for royal jelly.
Other bee-related income can be generated from the wholesale purchase and retail sale of honey, from the processing and “reclamation” of other beekeeper’s comb, slum or cappings. People who know nothing of beekeeping will pay up to $ 100.00 to have colonies removed from their trees or buildings. When properly done, this takes just a couple of hours work. You might want to consider selling bee supplies.
A beekeeper in Maryland is renting bees to the city for guarding ladders on water towers – keeping young people off. He anticipates renting to railroads – to protect their switches. Use your imagination and milk your bees for every possible dollar.
We never allow ourselves to think that our methods are the best possible. There is always room for improvement, always room for better production and advancement.
EXPERIMENT, listen and observe your own bees at work. Remember the story of the discovery of the smallpox vaccine. It all started when Edward Jenner noticed that milkmaids never contracted smallpox. His observation led to theories and experiments that proved that there was, indeed, a true connection to be made. Milkmaids never caught smallpox because they were exposed to the milder disease of cowpox. And the rest of the story is history.
In the next chapter I will discuss equipment – how to update what you have without undue expense. The best procedures profit little if they aren’t backed up with the best equipment for your particular setup.
It is possible to dig a cellar by hand – with a pick and shovel – but who wants to? And how many basements are being dug in that fashion these days? Times have changed and improved tools have made work easier and production faster. Hand tools were replaced by horses that pulled dump scoops. Today fuel-powered back hoes do the job in seemingly no time.
ARE YOU STILL USING “PICK AND SHOVEL” MACHINERY IN A BUSINESS THAT SHOULD AND COULD BE OPERATED WITH MODERN-DAY TOOLS?
As we all know, time is money. Not all improvements are costly – especially considering the time they save. One of our most important discoveries seems so obvious, but we spent countless hours nailing frames and supers before we realized that a power stapler would accomplish the job just as well.
Beekeepers who purchase such a stapler on our suggestion always report back that it was the best investment they ever made. I recommend the Senco K stapler as the best all-around use. It will hold staples from 5/8 inch to 1-1/2 inch. (Staples are available in lengths that graduate by 1.8 inch.) For larger beekeeping outfits who set up thousands of supers each year, we suggest the M-II, which is capable of holding 2 inch staples.
I am surprised at how many beekeepers do not own a good melter, extractor, uncapper, and bottler. Many beekeepers are still struggling along with “picks and shovels”. For just $ 5000 to $ 10,000 an all new stainless steel system can be purchased and set up. And what a difference such a system makes in the handling of your production.
Since no two businesses are alike, equipment must be discussed and bought on an individual basis, fitting individual needs. For example, we sell whole hives of bees and or five-frame nucs. This operation requires the use of hive bodies that are 9 5/8 inches deep. We have considered it advisable to standardize all our hives, and therefore use only 9 5/8 inch supers. This gives us completely interchangeable equipment, which makes for a most efficient business.
Many who produce only honey are using 6 5/8 inch supers for both brood and extraction. We heartily recommend such interchangeable equipment as being the most efficient.
Because we winter our bees in southern Georgia and bring them back to northern Pennsylvania for the summer months, we are concerned that we have equipment that is easily stacked, that is lightweight, and that will prove efficient at both sites. We have discovered a “secret” that the Midwestern and west coast beekeepers have had for years, but that few easterners know of or use. Instead of using telescoping covers and reversible bottom boards, we have taken to using migratory covers and bottom boards that are lighter in weight and that stack, one on top of the other, as snug as a close-fitting glove on a hand.
The migratory bottom has only a 3/8 inch opening. It does not have the reversible feature of the a Â¾ inch, “summer” opening. But is that a handicap? I’ve not yet talked to a beekeeper that actually reverses his bottom boards. Using the migratory cover eliminates the need for an inner cover, necessary with the telescoping variety. Neither is the migratory cover a wind-catcher, as the telescoping cover tends to be. We have seen that the westerners have more practical equipment and we have become believers in their ways.
Should you have specific questions about what tools would best suit your small-time or big-time operation, we are always eager to answer your questions and give you advice. Just explain what your goals are and what you’re now using. We’ll do our best to update your honey house and equipment so as to maximize your output.
What kind of a business can be profitable if it is not actually selling its product or service? How many businesses and stores go bankrupt because their merchandise has not moved out? Assets may be valued in the millions, but if income isn’t generated, what good are warehouses full of unsold products?
GOOD BUSINESS COMES WHEN A GOOD PRODUCT IS JOINED WITH GOOD SERVICE, EFFECTIVE PROMOTION, AND THE RIGHT PRICE. The basics are simple. Customers are gathered and kept when someone takes a little extra time…to care. Again, we have not learned all there is to know, but I’d like to share with you our guidelines for making and keeping customers.
Years ago a Jewish businessman commented, “There’s always a market for a quality product.” How right he was. When a television as brags, “Our product is a cut above the competition” it is stating the first principle of generating top sales. “A cut above” may apply not only to the consumable product, but to the packaging as well. I learned this lesson when the manager of a health food store that was carrying our honey commented in our labeling techniques. He had noticed that they weren’t always centered. An employee had placed one label cockeyed, and sure enough, that was the label noted by a customer. Now we are sure that every package made available to customers it top quality in every way possible.
We have also learned the hard way to be careful about labeling the contents of our product. When one of our customers went bankrupt, we went to salvage what we could of our $ 3,000.00 loss. We found several bottles of our honey, one of which was the darkest “clover” I’ve ever seen. (Although it was marked clover, it surely wasn’t.) We were, to say the least, very embarrassed, and shortly thereafter, at my son’s insistence, we bought a color comparator. WE learned to be more particular about our total product.
The same businessman, who knew the importance of a quality product, emphasized the importance of “superior service.” We, at Draper’s, are sticklers about fast and courteous service. If an order comes in today, it will be shipped today – tomorrow at the latest. You can bet that customers have noticed our prompt shipping practices. One beekeeper called and said, “You’ve taken the hassle out of my bee supplies purchasing.”
I cannot understand their reasoning, but I am acquainted with one large business that deliberately holds orders for at least four weeks and another that is back-logged six to eight weeks. You can be sure that whenever two products are equal quality and price, the supplier who provides the best service will get the order.
We always remember that we are in business to serve the customer. After all, where would we be if we had none? Even though, because of people running up bad debts, we have had to make some adjustments in our billing procedures (accepting orders on a cash only basis), we believe that the customer is there to be served and pleased.
We make every attempt to wait on customers cheerfully and courteously. They are welcomed as we would welcome guests. One customer from New York State made inquiries of several businesses, including our own. After his call, he came to our store and purchased $ 2,000.00 worth of merchandise. Before he left, he commented, “The other establishments I called lead me to believe they didn’t care whether or not I came to their business. I came here because you folks had a Bob Barker’s T.V. program ‘come on down’ attitude that encouraged me to make the trip.”
None of us can help but make judgments as to whether or not we are made to feel like a nuisance or a valued visitor. While traveling, my wife and I recently stopped at a restaurant. Inside the door a sign said, “Wait to be seated.” Wanting to accommodate the request of the management, we obliged, but were appalled when we waited and waited, all the while being watched by several waitresses who were standing together and chatting. It was quite some time before one of them motioned for us to come and take a seat. A similar sequence occurred when we were ready to pay the check. The restaurant’s dÃ©cor was pleasant. The food was excellent. The facilities were clean, but because of the waitresses’ “don’t care” attitude, we walked out the doorway, determined that we would never again enter through it.
Another tip for acquiring customers is hidden in the old saying: “You can’t sell what you haven’t got.” We are proud to carry a heavy inventory. Repeatedly customers comment that they come to us because they know we will be able to fill their requests. We project the future needs of our customers, and keep on hand anything we envision them finding useful and necessary. People buy where they find products.
It is also important to keep regular and scheduled business hours, and at your customers’ convenience, not yours. I hear criticism of other dealers. They’re never home, people say, or they’re only in on weekends or evenings. Remember, your customers do not want to make needless calls or trips; they want reliability and accessibility.
I once heard a New Jersey businessman say that he would not sell anything unless he could make AT LEAST a 25 to 30 percent profit on the sale. His philosophy is common and daily growing more widespread. Everyone wants to make a fast buck, but too often at other people’s expense. Our success has largely come from the volume of our sales at a low mark up. We thrive on a rapid inventory turnover. Some large equipment that we do not normally stock (such as a $ 3000.00 extractor), I’ve sold for as little as $ 15.00 over cost. The bee business is really a small world, and news spreads quickly; prospective customers come long distances to make such purchases. Once they are at our place of business, they remember other supplies or equipment they need, and their cash register receipts grow accordingly.
We also will occasionally offer free freight. When our truck heads out of state with a little empty space available, we call prospective customers on its route and offer to deliver to them any orders. We always are willing to serve the customer.
Of course, no one will please every customer every day. But bending over backwards to replace defective items, to honor shortages, and so forth, will always pay off in future, repeat sales.
Any good marketing plan must provide a way for prospective customers to know of your firm’s existence and of your product line. Advertising is a most obvious method. We learned some lessons about advertising the hard way – by misjudging the various media. We tried advertising in major large city newspapers like New York, Philadelphia, Buffalo and Syracuse. We received some favorable response, but we now know that only 35 percent of printed newspapers are read. We also tried television advertising in Philadelphia. Again we received some response, but without even blinking an eye, we had spent $ 10,000.00. Our most profitable venture came from advertising in penny savers and shoppers guides that are delivered to box holders. Statistics show that 85 percent of these tabloids are read. Considering the statistics, such space is extremely cost effective.
We are always careful to keep the name and address of every person who buys or inquires of our product. We periodically remind them of our existence and our product line. Two or three times a year we send a direct mail piece to these beekeepers or honey eaters. We also take advantage of every shipment to leave our warehouse; whenever an order is filled, one or more promotional stuffers accompany the packing slip. Who knows, the customer might have forgotten that honey makes a great, practical gift, that bee products purportedly keep one healthy, or they might have forgotten how closely behind winter spring arrives. A reminder is often the nudge needed to firm up a repeat sale.
Paid advertising is not the only effective means of letting the public know of your quality product. Publicity is one form of “free advertising.” Local newspapers are always looking for human interest stories. Schools are looking for out-of-the-classroom ways to teach their students. Bus loads of youngsters come to our business and our fields to an idea of what beekeeping is all about and to learn the details of life inside a hive. We never forget to offer them a small sample of our products; we know that over the family supper table, the children will tell anyone who will listen about visiting Draper’s and tasting our honey or candy.
I know one beekeeper that goes to his county fair and gathers interest when he “grows” on his chin a beard of bees. Do not forget the possibility of speaking at scout meetings and schools. The public has a great fascination with bees. Their fear of them makes you, a “fearless” beekeeper, and a member of a special breed. Most adults remember from their own school days that the bees are unique in their ability to work together. Capitalize on all these points when presenting your exciting hobby or livelihood to any group.
We are firm believers in letting our product sell itself. We give samples to prospective customers to convince them that they will want to buy. Mary Kay Cosmetics has learned this from experience: Nine out of ten people who try their products buy them. Saleswomen encourage other women to apply the cosmetics in their own homes. Once they try, it seems they’re hooked. We find this works particularly will with our candy. We give our samples with a “Try it, you’ll like it” attitude. We believe in our product enough to know, with pride, that it works.
The best advertiser is a satisfied customer. It is not just a textbook theory. My wife and I just happened to stop once at the Show Shoe Restaurant on route 80. It was at the right place at the right time; we were hungry and it caught our eye. As opposed to the restaurant I previously described, the hostess of this establishment greeted us at the door and seated us immediately. Our order was quickly taken. The food was delicious and the waitress couldn’t have been more attentive to our needs. On our way out, I complimented the cashier; this was the best restaurant I’d ever patronized. Since that day, I’ve been a walking advertisement for the Snow Show Restaurant. Whenever people I know tell me of their plans to drive route 80, I recommend they stop and eat there.
Serve up the best – the best product, the best service, the best attitude, the best advertising and promotion – and you will be well on your way to topping your competitors. You will be among the winners.
Dreaming with creativity is not enough; one must also market with creativity. LET YOUR IMAGINATION RUN WILD – IN PACKAGING TECHNIQUES, IN ADVERTISING TECHNIQUES, AND IN EXPANDING YOUR PRODUCT LINE.
Often I think of the recent television commercial that advertises a certain brand of buttermilk pancakes. Be going door to door, the salesman tries, in vain, to sell the mix. No one buys. No one even gives him a chance to relay his enthusiasm for his product. Then an idea strikes him: Surely woman would buy if they could taste a bite of the finished, fried cake.
When the next woman opens the front door, he stuffs her mouth full of delicious pancakes. Right then and there she converts to his brand.
The commercial is slightly extreme in its presentation. I can’t imagine anyone actually feeding an unsuspecting stranger, but what an ingenious advertising technique. It makes you, the watcher, certain that you will enjoy the product. It makes me want to run to the kitchen table for a plateful of pancakes and, of course, honey.
I understand that during the prohibition the Taylor Wine Company sold bottles of fresh grape juice with “Do not do the following or your grape juice will turn into wine” printed on the labels. What a subtle sales promotion! I recently heard of a man in North Carolina who is using the same idea – selling a pack that includes all the ingredients of and instructions for making mead, thus eliminating the governmental red tape and taxes that would plague him if he were selling the final product.
The author of Ecclesiastes claimed that there was nothing new under the sun. One scholar, Northrop Frye, suggests that “there is nothing new” refers to theory but no to practice or experience. A new package on an “old” product does work wonders and makes the whole contents SEEM as if it were newly discovered.
Several years ago, when the trend was leaning toward the selling of honey in smaller and smaller containers, I wracked my brain for a practical way to package honey for the serious user. If such people were buying honey a few pounds at a time, they were paying through the nose for the jars, a needless waste of their money. After making many inquiries, I bought a tractor trailer load of wide-mouth plastic gallon jugs (8,500 units), each holding twelve pounds of honey. It was a gamble. Would people really buy is large containers, and in plastic, when they were used to glass? But it worked. We now sell at least a trailer load of these gallons (fifty tons of honey) each year.
The use of plastic instead of glass has opened up for us a new mail order business to urban consumers whom we could not otherwise easily reach. We have even shipped overseas – to the Caribbean, South America, Germany, and Yemen.
Sometimes creativity in marketing techniques can come after hours, even weeks of years of thinking, but sometimes one should take advantage of spur of the moment ides that make the most of opportunities that will quickly be gone. One small-time beekeeper was selling honey at a farmer’s market. The sky was overcast and the rain threatened. His supply of honey was moving, until…he saw a bee flying around the booth. He dabbed a drop on honey on the tip of his finger, and the bee lit down to taste the sweetness. He capitalized on the public’s fascination with and fear of bees and, sure enough, it worked. A crowd gathered around him and started to ask questions. By the time the bee had flown off, the crowd had bought all his honey. Then the beekeeper went home, laughing all the way.
Take a tip from the television ad for spaghetti sauce that claims “You’ve gotta try new things.” Try new packages and new products. Try retailing more varieties of honey than your bees produce. Year round we sell clover, wildflower, alfalfa, orange blossom and buckwheat honey. We try to meet the tastes of all our customers. I met a motel owner who wanted to sell honey at his counter, but he was particular. He wanted to sell only wildflower honey and only in quart jars. I have never understood why someone would want to limit his outreach to such a small segment of the whole honey market, why someone would assume that everyone’s taste is the same as his own.
Honey candy has become a great boon for us. But yours might be______ well, it might be anything, something not yet available to the public or something old that is packaged in a new way or something that contains a slightly new mix of ingredients.
In 1974, knowing nothing about bees or honey, we started on a venture that, in 1981, grossed over a million dollars. We feel we’ve hardly scratched the surface of the opportunities available in the bee business. We’ve only just begun, as the song says, and we welcome you to join us.
Remember, there IS something new under the sun. And you may be the one to introduce it into the marketplace.
Dare to Be Deliberate About Details
Details they can make you or break you.
Who would want to deal with a bank that didn't bother to balance its ledgers to the penny? Who would want to hire an accountant who didn't bother to balance his personal checkbook? Not I! In every business, bookkeeping is important, but IN BEEKEEPING, PAYING ATTENTION TO DETAILS IS BIGGER THAN PROPERLY BALANCING FINANCIAL ACCOUNTS.
Recently our truck made a trip east, toward the coast. When our driver returned, he made a keen observation: One thriving bee operation appeared neat, clean, and orderly...nothing out of place. Another beekeeper whose business reputation is poor and whose operation is near failure kept a honey house with just the opposite appearance. Hundreds of jars of crystallized honey had been set here and there...in no order whatsoever. Used supers sat around in disarray. The contrast between the appearances of the two businesses was stark, as was the contrast between the successes of the two. One was particular about details while the other let things slip by unnoticed or untended.
Let me get to a few specific areas in which we have seen or learned first-hand the importance of details.
An acquaintance placed about twenty five hives on property that was not his own. He had not received permission for such from the land owner, but relied on a conversation he had with a tenant who told him the owner wanted the bees on the property. Weeks later the trouble bubbled up between the beekeeper and the land owner. Why? Because the beekeeper had not been careful about making the proper arrangements, he had not been deliberate about details.
I know of one such instance that ended up as a court battle. A Midwestern beekeeper kept several hundred hives on a ranch he did not own. Subsequently the rancher was killed in an accident and the estate was sold. When the beekeeper called on the new ranch owner and introduced himself as the owner of the hives, the rancher took issue with him, claiming that the bees had been part of the estate he had bought. The beekeeper lost the court case because he had no written proof of ownership.
We have mimeographed an agreement that we always ask a property owner, on whose land we set our hives, to sign. The wording is as follows and you are free to copy this example for your own protection. If the land owner seems offended that you do not trust him, you might want to explain the importance of such an agreementâ€¦should you or he die unexpectedly:
Permission is hereby given to Drapers Super Bee to place
hives of bees on my property. Being the owners thereof, they or their heirs may
at any time remove all hives of bees.
Let me also share the wording we print on a poster that we hang at each of our yards:
Bees belong to Drapers Super Bee, Millerton, PA.
This poster serves several purposes: In one sense it is inexpensive advertising, getting our name before the public. It also makes ownership clear, and it encourages and very well might prompt an observer to notify us in case of vandalism, bear damage, or swarming. Such a poster is just a small detail, but what a difference it can make in keeping the business running smoothly.
I have heard western beef ranchers comment that the difference between their annual profit and loss is the calf the little thing, the extra detail. And so might your financial future depend on whether or not you are particular about details.
Silly mistakes. Who doesn’t make them…especially when first learning a new skill? What child doesn’t fall numerous times while learning to walk or ride a bike? What music student doesn’t fumble notes when first reading music? Mistakes aren’t made only by beginners. The best baseball players make errors, but the best ball players are those who get up and keep right on playing. And so it is with beekeepers.
Mistakes whether those of the beginner or the seasoned old timer are means by which we learn bee culture, terminology, and procedures. We learn what we SHOULDN’T do!
Cultivating an “easy” sense of humor will make our “I should have known better” mistakes less embarrassing, even tolerable.
I’ve heard a pastor friend of mine, Rev. James Bence, a beekeeper, say: “Beekeepers are a little odd or peculiar.” Then he would burst out laughing. What a refreshing attitude, being able to laugh at himself.
Let’s look at a few laughable bloopers. We just might learn some valuable lessons from other people’s mistakes…as well as from our own.
First, let me mention a few
mistakes of people who had a slight interest, but no experience, in keeping
We know a man who has a similar experience. He hadn’t transferred his farming principles to his beekeeping. He fed his chickens, milked his cow, and so forth, but didn’t think he had to do anything to get a crop of honey.
Another man brought in watery, uncured honey that he wanted to sell to us. We explained what he had and he proceeded to assure us he’d leave the rest of his unextracted supers out in the lawn for a few days so they would cure.
I once consented to remove bees from an older friend’s hollow apple tree. He accompanied me, saying he’d helped a relative work bees when he was a young man. It was a warm day and he wore only trousers and an undershirt. I objected to his attire, but he held firm, saying this was the type of clothing he’d worn before, and it had served his purpose well. I cut the tree and then noticed that he had backed off to a hedge, some forty feet away. After working a few minutes, I looked for him. I spotted him five hundred yards away, on a dead run toward his house. Both his hands were in the air, fighting off the bees that were flying around his head. He didn’t die from the bee stings, but I nearly did from laughter.
We’ve learned from some of our own mistakes. I know I’ll never again tell how many tons of honey we produced until it is in the barrel. Last year, due to our new methods and management procedures, I anticipated one hundred barrels. Early on, the hives looked good, but bad weather blew in. Consequently we harvested only sixty-two barrels (86.7 pounds per hive), while others in our area averaged ten to forty pounds.
It is often easier to see other people’s “bloopers” as funnier than our own. Sometimes unfortunate, painful situations come about through humorous circumstances. We must always remain sensitive and not repeat stories that we see as funny, but which are far from funny to the victims. I learned the hard way that some true stories should not be repeated. I was careless and lost a customer and friend, although now, three years later, our friendship has been restored. This man could not laugh at himself, and I was not sensitive to his embarrassment.
The telephone rang about seven one morning and my friend asked if I wanted a swarm. I did and went to his place. On the previous day, he had hived the swarm three times. Each time they had come back out. The last time, just before dark, a bee had crawled up his leg and stung him in a very sensitive spot. All night he had been in such pain he could not sleep. Sufficient to say, he’d “had it”! He wanted those bees off his property. I hived them and came home. The swarm had a virgin queen that was not ready to settle down.
I relayed the humorous incident to several people, one of whom went back to my friend and laughed at his misfortune. But to him who had suffered, it was no joke.
The bees themselves can sometimes provide a source for humor. One morning my son and hired man went to a yard of bees, but just as they were ready to work, a hive swarmed. As the bees flew violently along the front row, the whole front row joined in. Can you imagine six or eight hives swarming at once? When they landed on a fence post, it looked like a standing black bear. How does an operator manage such a situation? It helps to keep a laughing spirit.
We made many mistakes until we learned all the regional and colloquial names for equipment. For example, depending on where you are from, 9 5/8 inch deep supers are call hive bodies, boxes, gums, or skeps. Frames are called racks, sticks, or guts. 6 5/8 inch supers are called mediums, three quarters or Illinois. (One man called in wanting to buy “Chicago” supers.) Honey extractors can be called slingers or spinners. Beeswax foundation can be called starters or just wax. Can you imagine our confusion when, at first, customers called in ordering bee supplies by these various names? Looking back, we chuckle as we recall how we were educated…slowly…on these various local terms.
I find that every day is lightened when healthy laughter becomes a part of
it. Try laughing at your mistakes...past and present...and see if they don't
become lessons rather than disaster areas.
I find that every day is lightened when healthy laughter becomes a part of it. Try laughing at your mistakes...past and present...and see if they don't become lessons rather than disaster areas.
When a hobby grows into a business, it is usually necessary to hire part-time or full-time help. You may need help with the bookkeeping, the production, or the sales. Very few businesses of any type have one person who has the time or the know-how to so everything well.
Most businesses that enjoy large sales and profits employ a sales force that spreads the word and services accounts. Mary Kay Cosmetics employs 135,000 representatives who, in 1981, sole over 400 million dollars of merchandise. No few people could accomplish such volume, considering the relatively low retail price of cosmetic products. For all successful businesses, there will come a day when one person, or even family members, cannot carry the whole load. Help will have to be hired.
As we have grown, we have learned THE IMPORTANCE OF POSITIVE ATTITUDES, EVEN IN THE AREA OF PERSONNEL.
We have always been concerned with honesty. Employees have access to property, merchandise, and money, and it is impossible (and undesirable) to have to watch over their every move. People work best in environments where they know they are respected…and trust is a large part of respect.
We were once considering a certain prospective employee as on “on the road” sales rep. As part or our interviewing process, we asked him to suggest a comfortable salary and to estimate his travel expenses. One item in his proposed budget was “grease for the wheels.” We asked him what he meant and he answered, “Under the table money for purchasing agents.”
Needless to say, we did not hire him. We knew our product at our price, did not need any “undercover” help. And we were leery of anyone who would consider such practices as necessary or even acceptable.
We know of one New Jersey beekeeper that learned the hard way that one must be careful in knowing the character of one’s employees. This beekeeper left one of his men in charge of the home base for several months, while he went to the Midwest. The employee was given money to pay the bills and authority to manage the business, however the bills weren’t paid and the managing practices weren’t sound; the employee used the company funds for his personal pleasure.
We have found that Christian employees tend to be trustworthy, and we are careful to ask for personal references when hiring people with whom we are not familiar. From my observation, handicapped people tend to be dependable and conscientious. Whenever work is available that they are physically able to handle, I recommend considering their talents.
When deciding who to hire for management positions, I heartily endorse the advice of a successful building contractor who said, “Pick a man who has been successful in his past employment.” Success breeds success, and what made a person succeed once, will no doubt, produce further successes.
We, as employers, must be careful in the training of our people. There is no way someone can do a job correctly if he or she is not trained to complete the job to our particular specifications. We never assume that new employees know what to do or when to do it. Taking time to train someone may seem bothersome (especially if deadlines are pressing down and work is backed up), but lack of training costs time and money in the long run. Employees may attend seminars, short-course schools, or refresher courses, but even these are not total substitutes for on-the-job training.
Once we have trained an employee and learned to trust him, we make him a valued part of our business. We work as a team, each individual offering ideas and energy to the unit. When an employee feels as if he is contributing more than muscle and hours to the organization, you will receive more than muscle and work hours.
I frequently hear my son complimenting his employees for a job well done, and I know he reaps more benefit from those words of encouragement than he would from one – or – many complaints or reprimands.
Employee incentives also increase productivity. A Christmas bonus, a percentage of the profits, or shares of stock bring psychological and financial benefits to the employee, and, in turn, to the employer.Employees can be the greatest asset or your greatest liability of a firm. If you are careful in your hiring practices and then back up that concern with training and encouragement, you can reap a bountiful harvest of work inspiration.
One beekeeper from southern Pennsylvania came to us asking for advice. His business was slow. “What am I doing wrong” he asked?
We were delighted to show him our techniques and the fruits of our planning and labor. We shared with him what I have shared with you here in these pages. He went home, excited, encouraged, and ready to turn his business upside down.
In about a year’s time, he called me. It wasn’t working, he said. He was worse off than ever, and the creditors were at his door. Did I have any other “secrets” I could share that might set him in the right direction?
“Yes,” I said. “I shared with you the basics of our business and beekeeping principles, but forgive me for not telling you the basics of my Christian faith. The Christian principles upon which I base my life permeate the business, and THE BENEFITS I RECEIVE FROM GOD IN RETURN FOR MY FATIH AND MY FAITHFULNESS TO HIM ARE IMMEASURABLE. He pumps our business full of life.”
As I shared my final “secret” with him, let me share it with you, so that you too might reap the benefits the Lord promises his followers.
The way to find God is really sprinkled throughout the beginning pages of this book. It is as simple as “Knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt. 7 : 7). God has promised that He will hear the call of those who seek Him with all their hearts. He asks that we confess our past sins and accept Jesus’ death as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. We must then believe that He does forgive and that He has forgiven us.
When I came to God I confessed my past sins and asked God to take charge of my life…my present and my future. Because I believed, He filled my life with peace, freedom from guilt, and a sense of well-being.
I laid hold of Jesus’ promise in the Sermon on the Mount where He said that those who belong to and follow Him will be blessed or happy, contented, and emotionally well-off.
Not many people admit their restlessness, but I well remember one Barbara Walters’ interview that revealed the emptiness that material success alone can bring. She was interviewing Harry Reasoner, who admitted that he’d never found inner peace, that something was missing in his life.
Until we find God, we all have an inner void that is God-shaped. We try to fill it by gathering around us people, possessions, and power, but none of these fill all the recesses of the vacuum.
Many successful and brilliant men; bankers, industrialists, artists, politicians (no group is exempt) can be ruined, even end on skid row, because guilt, lack of peace, sin, and negative emotions of envy, jealousy, lust, and greed have eaten away at them.
But a Christian has an extra inner strength that helps him or her overcome these personal destructive forces that get in the way of positive attitudes and a positive direction in life.
The personal spiritual blessings that Christians have available to them give them a definite advantage over their non-Christian counterparts. They do not have to muster up or manufacture positive attitudes and thoughts, but simply need to concentrate on their Lord and negative thoughts flee. Christians who truly focus on God see that good is winning in their life’s situation.
Several familiar Bible stories illustrate some of the more physical benefits that God gives to His people. Do you know the Old Testament story of Joseph, who, when he was a young boy, had the “misfortune” of being sold by his brothers as a slave? The slave traders took him from Palestine into Egypt, where he was bought by Potiphar, the captain of the Pharaoh’s guard. Because Potiphar saw that God prospered Joseph, he gave him authority over his whole house. Hard times again fell upon Joseph and he spent several of his young adult years in prison for wrongs he never committed. But God did not forget Joseph, and, some years later, because of God’s gift to him of great wisdom and understanding, the Pharaoh promoted Joseph to a political position that was second only to himself.
For Joseph, God’s blessing did not mean exemption from hard times or even disastrous circumstances. But it meant that God made good come of what looked as if it were bad or inconvenient. It meant that God stayed with him and helped him in the time of his need. God helped Joseph to triumph in spite of circumstances.
The story of Job also illustrates God’s faithfulness to His followers. God blessed Job with great wealth, but, through no fault of Job, he lost everything he had. The story doesn’t end there, though. Scripture says that Job’s end was better than his beginning. By the time he was old, Job had more than recovered his prosperity. When he died, his inventory included fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and more.
God also blessed Abraham with prosperity. In the case of Abraham, faith truly wrought miracles of blessing. Sarah, his wife, gave birth to a son when she was well past childbearing age. God was faithful in keeping a promise He had made to Abraham when he was young. God is always faithful to keep His promise of blessing.
This book would not be complete if I did not tell you specific examples of how God has blessed our business. Time and again He has answered my fervent prayers for guidance and for help.
When business has been slow and cash short, I have prayed and asked God to intervene. In answer to these prayers, people have called in or written orders. They commented, “I lost your address but I found it just today when cleaning out a drawer.” Other prayers were answered by unexpected large orders. I don’t for a minute; believe that such an influx of business just at the right time was completely coincidental. I believe God was listening and providing for our needs.
At one time we had accumulated about sixty barrels of dark honey. It just would not move. We desperately needed to free up the money invested in this honey for other projects. I went to prayer. I told God our problem (of course He already knew our need, but He commands that we ask anyway), and the very next day a man called, asking if we had that much dark honey, as he had a need for it.
Maybe our most remarkable answer to prayer came when God gave us wisdom to know what to do with seventeen thousand pounds of comb honey. We had committed ourselves to buying the entire crop of several beekeepers. The crops were beyond all our expectations and the market for comb honey was glutted; we could hardly give away our stock.
Again I prayed. As I was staring into the heavens…from whence comes my help…I felt strongly impressed that we should look into the possibility of making honey candy. Some might say it was just a dreamer’s imagination running wild, but the idea has proved to be so successful that I know, without any doubt, that “honey candy” were words from the Lord.
I am not alone in believing in and having experienced God’s goodness. He hears and blesses those who listen for and obey His voice. He will hear and He will bless you…if you call upon Him.
Lest We Forget
Success…how sweet the sound of the word. Who doesn’t want to be recognized and applauded for his or her accomplishments? Who doesn’t want to bask in the pride that comes with completing a well-done job? What delights grow in the ego of those who are welcomed into the ranks of the successful.
BUT how easy it is for that person to forget the debt he owes to God, the giver of all good gifts, and to his fellowman. How easy for him to get wrapped up in himself and in enjoying the pleasures and rewards of his hard work.
There is nothing wrong with wealth; it is certainly worth working for. But, should you gross a million annually (and you can by following the principles laid down in the previous chapters), remember what is so easy to forget: It profits a man nothing if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul.
ACCUMULATING WEALTH FOR SELFISH PURPOSES WILL EAT AT YOU LIKE A CANCER. Luke 12 : 15 says, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” People who are greedy and selfish are usually miserably unhappy people, people who have not found the secret as described in the preceding chapter.
The award-winning 1981 film Chariots of Fire clearly showed this principle at work. The “flying Scottsman” Eric Liddell put God first in his life. In the 1924 Olympics he ran to win, for God and for his country’s glory. The story makes his commitments, priorities, and principles clear. God had asked that he not work on the Sabbath, and so Eric refused to run his race scheduled for Sunday.
The story is more than that race; it shows how Eric gave even the other six days of every week to the Lord. History records the story’s ending: God blessed Eric’s faithfulness.
One of his teammates offered to exchange races with him. And Eric won the race he ran later in the week, even though that distance was not his specialty.
The film pivots Eric’s character against that of another of his Olympic teammates who ran only for his personal glory. The contrast in their victories is striking. Eric returned to England full of Life, while his comrade returned filled with a self-centeredness that binded, more than freed, his spirit. He had won his race, but what was left to live for?
It seems Eric could truly delight in his victory because the goal of his life was larger than the winning of the Olympic race. The goal of his life was to serve and please God.
If we invest our gains, our blessings, our talents to help those who are needy we will multiply our blessings in this life and the next. The Bible says that if we cast our bread upon the waters, it will return to us after many days (Eccl. 11 : 1). If we help others, our generosity will return to us. This principle also works in reverse. If we hide the light we have been given, if we become Scrooge-like in our attitudes toward our money or our knowledge, our spirits and maybe our fortunes will wither up.
Malachi 3:10 is an interesting verse: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
Here God says that if we give to Him a tithe of our means, we may prove His faithfulness. Missionaries, churches, orphanages, hospitals – they are in need of help so that they may meet the needs of the poor, the suffering, and the homeless. We who have succeeded have a responsibility to the rest of humanity.
I feel a responsibility to use my money carefully but with generosity. I feel a responsibility to share my knowledge with any who ask. I welcome visitors to our warehouse and to go into the fields with our men. Our toll free number is open for advice giving. I want always to remember my primary goal in life – to serve God and to be a blessing to my fellow life-travelers.
Jesus loves to teach by telling stories and Luke 12 relates one that he told about a rich farmer who reaped the rewards to his hard work by harvesting a bumper crop. His success was not happenstance, but the result of careful planning and days of labor.
The farmer then asked himself, “What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?” He answered his own question by deciding that he would pull down his barns and build bigger ones so that he could store his fruits and his goods.
Jesus does not condemn the man for building bigger warehouses—such are the growing pains of success. The flaw in this man’s thinking seems to be in his frequent use of the word “I” and in his motives for expanding his operation as shown in verse 19: “And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou has much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat drink, and be merry.” The farmer was self-indulgent and he took all the credit for his success. Because of this farmer’s attitudes, his self-serving lifestyle, Jesus called him a fool. He then made a broader parallel: “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
How easy it is to forget that we plant and water but God gives the harvest. As we daily, yearly, count the bounty He supplies, we must consider the debt we owe back to Him and the debt we owe to our brothers and sisters.
In Matthew 25 Jesus makes one statement perfectly clear, and He says it twice, in positive and then in negative terms: “In as much as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me,” and “In as much as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.”
Reaching for the “better life” or self-employment or financial security can be a dream of every American, but I earnestly pray that every “reacher” will remember to be a giver.
Colony Collapse Disorder