All the way back in early 2019, a full three years ago, the residents of West Virginia were becoming enthusiastic about beekeeping as a new income source. Especially since the coal industry was in decline.
In just 28 years, the bottom fell out of the industry, and 79,000 high paying mining jobs were lost. Many hardworking coal mine workers needed to find a new way to earn a good living and replace lost income.
Appalachian Beekeeping Collective, a nonprofit, came to the rescue with a solution to the region’s economic hardship. They have now trained well over 100 beekeepers and have given them all the equipment they need to get started in their new profession after they complete the free training and learn how to be profitable sustainable beekeepers.
Beekeeping was introduced to the entire community at a time when not just mining jobs were disappearing, but also other industries were challenged. Bees offered a new beginning for many.
This 2:36-minute video by Appalachian Beekeeping Collective features beekeeper Taylor Brady on the program benefits:
Three years further along, the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective is still helping budding beekeepers in the area, and a whole lot more. They not only train people to become profitable beekeepers, and provide them with start up equipment, they also bottle their honey and market it. And they have planted over 300,000 trees since 2020.
In the process of learning to be a beekeeper, they help people to understand the local ecosystems, and how natural beekeeping is the best way to keep bees healthy. No antibiotics, or synthetic pesticides are used in the bee colonies, which are placed on healthy land, free of herbicides and fungicides as well.
One healthy beehive can produce 60-100 pounds of honey in a season, and most beekeepers end up with 10-15 beehives at any given time, some of them even more. The honey currently sells at $15 per bottled pound. In one season, keeping 20 hives can easily represent $18,000 to $30,000 depending on volume. It is easy to see how beekeeping can help revitalize small town economies.
The beauty of the bee business is that it does not demand all of a person’s time. There is plenty of time to do other work. One doesn’t need to look beyond beekeeping, as there are several cottage industries built on turning beeswax into candles, lip balm, and other wax products, and sales of royal jelly, propolis, bee venom, and pollen in the global health and wellness market. Appalachian Beekeeping Collective offers training in some of these areas as well.
With all the possibilities for making money from bees, a new enthusiasm has come to these rural Appalachian communities and people are enjoying a new wave of confidence. They are also bonding with their lands again.