Editor’s note: this is the next article of a series discussing the pros and cons of certain side businesses that CU members may approach their credit unions to finance using a Side Business Loan.™
By Ramona Bell.
As the culture of our world changes and embraces sustainability, a new trend has been birthed that pushes for the creation of ecologically sound business ventures, where going “green” can be good for the would-be business owner as well as being ecologically sound. The notion of reducing, recycling, and reusing is no longer reserved for the die-hard conservationists of the world, but is now a life-style many individuals embrace with an active level of accomplishment and zeal. Channeling this energy into a viable side business opportunity seems like the next logical step, with an endless list of green possibilities. One of the sweeter endeavors to emerge involves the practice of backyard beekeeping. Individuals interested in this sub-culture of farming have the potential to strengthen their own personal communities and their financial standings, while also contributing to the global world market.
The practice of beekeeping itself has existed for thousands of years across the globe, and has played a crucial role in the pollination of plants. Successful pollinations not only result in higher honey yields, but also in higher food harvests. The appeal of small-scale beekeeping (referred to as backyard beekeeping), incorporates this geographic flexibility, with the maintenance of hives being open to rural and urban settings. For once, geographic location is not a predisposition to failure when financial success is concerned. The level of overall success still depends on the viable number of nectar/pollen producing plants in an area, but the area itself can exist on a downtown city roof, or in a country garden. In this situation, the bees do most of the work, and are willing to fly several miles to areas where pollen is present. This opens this type of side business up to almost any individual willing to put forth the effort needed to successfully raise bees.
Placing geographical opportunities aside, the land of milk and honey will not magically appear for the would-be beekeeper before a fair amount of research is conducted. Unless one can learn firsthand from an active beekeeper, an interested individual needs to become familiar with their personal environmental conditions, prominent patterns of weather, the types of plants present, and the types of bees that will survive best in a particular climate. Additional information will also be required concerning how to colonize and maintain hives, how to winterize bees, and how to handle occasional acts of aggression from the bees in the hive. While obtaining a start-up hive and bees is not financially draining, with some areas even offering the opportunity to rent a colony for a reduced price, their overall care can require some work. When examined from a minimalist standpoint, bees really only need a source of aged water, a hive, and a supply of nectar to collect. From a business owner’s standpoint, bees require patience and ideal conditions in order to produce a worthy amount of honey to harvest. This can involve building fences and walls in order to maintain swarm control, raise bee flight paths, and to provide protection for the hive. In the beginning, this will most likely be a trial-and-error process, with the backyard beekeeper learning as they go.
As stated earlier, research on this topic is crucial for success and needs to extend past the basics of bees to the legality of captive honey harvests. While it is completely legal to raise bees within in the United States, each state has its own set of rules and regulations concerning the number and types of hives kept. Before an individual invests any money, it would be wise to become familiar with the beekeeping laws of the state, so that any accidental infringements won’t jeopardize future success. On a related note, knowing a community will increase success as well. While bees do perform a very necessary task, many people are fearful of them and might oppose the colonization of bees in their neighbor’s backyard. Research and education are again key factors here; the more you know about bees and their habits, the more you can lessen the sting when it comes to sharing a community’s space. Additionally, many homeowner’s associations prohibit bee cultivation. If you live in an HOA community, review the restrictions first before spending any money.
With all of this being said, backyard beekeeping will not make you rich overnight, but it can with time, become a stable and earth-friendly source of extra income. By beekeeping, an individual will not cause any environmental damages and can contribute to the number of flowers pollinated in a specific area. This in turn will increase honey production, which can foster positive relationships between rural and urban members of a community. The survival of bees across the nation has been an issue of concern for the past several years, so undertaking a side business that can potentially improve conditions nationwide is also something to consider. While the likelihood of getting stung, either physically or financially, is always present, the dedicated individual can reap sweet rewards through patience and research.
Ramona Bell is a free-lance writer who is currently pursuing her Ph.D in Research Psychology.