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Enjoy Magazine

The Jefferson Bee Company in Red Bluff

05/24/2017 11:00AM ● By Gary VanDeWalker

To Bee or Not to Bee

June 2017
By Gary VanDeWalker
Photos by Taryn Burkleo

For Jared and Kelsey King, life in Northern California contains beauty and mystery. When Jared’s work moved him from Siskiyou County to Red Bluff, the Kings were entering an unexpected part of their lives’ journey. His job required him to travel, taking him to places apart from his family, until together they discovered bees.

As the Kings settled into their new location, they met friends at church and the discussion turned to bees. Jared wanted to explore the topic. “The discussion was a good one, an unexpected surprise,” Jared says. “At first, I didn’t give the business any credit. But then I realized God put us in a new place and here was a new direction. This could be a career change.  I could stop traveling. Here was something we could do together.”

Jared helped supply a local beekeeper with wood for his hives, and his demand was so great that he realized he need a bigger trailer. In negotiating the price for a used trailer, the seller offered him a discount if he could provide him with a beehive as part of the payment. “I found out people were really into bees,” Jared says. The family started offering bee equipment.  After six months, they began to buy hives. The business took off and grew fast.

By February 2016, they jumped fully into the whole business, buying 120 hives. Where they once woke and scrambled to get up early, shuffle children to school and take off to their nine-to-five jobs, Jared and Kelsey now found time for family breakfasts.  “Even though we got up early and worked a lot of hours, we had so much more time with the kids,” says Kelsey. “We wouldn’t trade off for anything else.  We felt like we weren’t working, even though we worked hard.”

Jefferson Bee Company serves four markets:  pollination for crops, bees, hive equipment, and byproducts created from honey and wax.  A typical day includes unloading empty boxes, splitting colonies and introducing queen cells to grow their stock. There are candles to make. Honey needs to be bottled, labeled and sealed. They market and test new products, and explore new recipes using honey.

The translucent petals of almond trees mark the bee season for the almond industry.  With more than 2 million acres of trees to pollinate, California beekeepers only have a quarter of the needed bees to do the job. The first week of February, the family drops off bees to pollinate almond orchards. They pick up the bees two months later. The Kings are looking to double their hives over the next year, then grow their business at 10 percent a year. “There is an incredible demand,” Jared says. “Two-thirds of the honey in the United States is imported.  There is so much growth in our business. Our plans are to have   
2,000 hives.”  

There is more to bees than the orchards. “Our business is hobbyist driven,” Jared says.  “During the year, we focus on the smaller enthusiasts. We walk new beekeepers through everything, from inviting families over to do science projects and honey tasting. We teach them how to become beekeepers. We want them to be successful.” 

The Kings look to the future. Their children – Madilynn (8), Sebastian (3) and William (1) – are growing up among the bees. They are the future beekeepers.

“Our mission is making people’s lives happier, healthier, more sustainable one hive at a time,” says Jared. “People want sustainable lives, instead of always going to the grocery store. So we relate with people, bringing them the joy of being new beekeepers.”

The Jefferson Bee Company is growing, and the young family looks to a future with a business which matches their family. “God is a huge part of our lives. He’s set up this whole thing,” Jared says. “The way this company has come into fruition could not be explained any other way.” • Find them on Facebook