I started beekeeping by chance.
I was working at a science museum that had a really cool exhibit on honey bees. Every day I’d have to walk past it to get to my office and so I’d stop and watch all the busy bees. My boss knew where to find me if I wasn’t in the office… I was usually in front of the bee exhibit. It’s a little ironic because I was completely and utterly terrified of bees! If I saw a bee on a flower, I’d run for the hills. However, this exhibit fascinated me.
Fast forward to a few years later where my boyfriend and I met a local beekeeper at our gym. Apparently he needed to get rid of a hive and offered to give it to us. Fate? Possibly. At this time, I was studying Sustainability and I knew I wanted to keep bees. I had learned about their importance and how much we rely on honey bees for our food.
After we got comfortable with our beehive and being beginner beekeepers, we experimented with splitting and live bee removal. The rest is history and so we started Palm Pike Apiary. I spent 3 years performing bee removals and taking care of our bees. Facing my fear of bees was incredible and gave me so much confidence, as well as learning a new skill. Beekeeping is anything but easy. You need to learn so much and even when you think you know it all, the bees will humble you.
Bees need flowers.
Throughout this time, I was also gardening. I started growing a few vegetable plants so I could have fresh salad right from my backyard. I realized I should grow some flowers for the bees. My garden was right next to my hives so it made the most sense to grow some flowers.
I did some research on pretty native plants but I also wanted to try some cool cut flowers. I thought, why not be able to cut myself a pretty bouquet while also feeding my bees. So, I got easy species like Zinnia’s and Celosia. After a few months, I fell in love with growing flowers.
Around this time I was also struggling with my mental health. Starting an agricultural business from the ground up is anything but stress-free. Growing flowers really brought me joy. I filled the garden with flowers, I grew 7 different varieties of Celosia, and I fell in love with flowers. I started doing research on flower farming just to see what it was about and dreamed of trying it at the apiary. Could I do it? Nah. I already had my hands full with beekeeping.
Then, 2020 hit.
We all know what that meant! Too much happened in 2020 and my mental health took a turn for the worst. I wasn’t sure if I could keep going. I had spent years focusing on Palm Pike Apiary and completely ignored my mental and physical health. However, it was during this time that I took a step back and realized a lot needed to change. Towards the end of 2020, I started planning the flower operation at the apiary. I had decided it was now or never! I needed to stop making excuses for myself and just give it a try.
I worked hard with my family and friends at the apiary. We created rows, installed irrigation, sowed seeds, and set everything up for flower farming. It was surreal for me to come to our tiny bee yard and see it prepped for farming. Then, the real work began!
I spend the first half of 2021 tending to my flowers. I grew flowers for local florists, I made bouquets for family and friends, I saved seeds, and I sold starter plants. I experimented as much as I could and while I’m still experimenting, I feel like I’m finding my place in the flower farming world.
I guess I’m a flower farmer now.
Flower farming in South Florida is a challenge, just like beekeeping. However, this challenge was different for me. It’s hard but I felt calm throughout the chaos. My zinnia seedlings are dying? Okay, let’s try again. The irrigation isn’t working properly? Okay, let’s figure it out. I never felt this with beekeeping.
Growing flowers has been a breath of fresh air. It’s been exciting, weirdly calming, and just so much fun! My reasons for flower farming are mainly selfish. It makes me happy. However, when I dive deeper there’s way more to it. Honey bees are extremely important but they’re not the only pollinator. Native bees are just as (if not, more) important to our world. Butterflies, beetles, birds, and bats are all important pollinators too. And what’s one of the best ways to help pollinators? Planting flowers.
Aside from wanting to help more pollinators, I learned how the cut flower industry truly operates. About 80-90% of all flowers in the United States come from overseas. That’s right, those pretty roses you find at the grocery store are from another country. Now, I don’t think importing flowers is going anywhere, but if we want to fight climate change things need to change. Buying locally grown flowers has become a huge movement. There aren’t many flower farms here in South Florida so I felt like it was even more important for me to take on the challenge.
So what’s happening with the bees?
The bees aren’t going anywhere. I will probably keep bees for the rest of my life because it IS a ton of fun when I stop focusing on it as a full business. However, our plans for expansion, workshops, queen rearing, etc. have come to a halt. Eventually, I will probably return to these things but for now, I am happiest focusing on the flower operation.
This doesn’t mean that our raw honey and beeswax are going anywhere. We still sell both and we will continue to do so. In fact, I hope to eventually expand on other types of honey from different beekeepers here in Florida. For now, we are sticking to the hives we have and our flower operation.
If you started following us for the bees but stayed for the flowers, thank you. I am truly so happy with this new operation and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Palm Pike Apiary!