By Leah MatzkeFeatured in Make It Minnesota's Fall 2014 issue.
Papa Bear Apiaries is operated by four partners, Jeff Lueck, Dale Lueck, Ken Lueck, and Tim Hoeft. Partner Jeff Lueck says they all share the workload and have a good time working together.
When asked how Papa Bear Apiaries came to be, Jeff reminisced “My brothers and I had been kicking around the idea of growing honey again for some time - our grandfather raised honey for family and friends and my wife’s grandpa raised bees as well.
Then one day my brother called and said, “You serious about those bees?’’ He had found three hives at a garage sale and I said, “Why not?”
Now, six years later, Papa Bear Apiaries has 70 hives spread across central Minnesota and this year’s crop brought in 3,000 lbs of honey. Getting to that point did not come without its costs though. Jeff recalls, “When we first started we invested $1,000 and at the season’s close got 48 lbs of honey. My brother’s wife joked we should call the operation “Fools Gold Honey”. After some serious consideration, the group came up with Papa Bear Apiaries as the business name and have grown large enough that they not only have sold out the past few years, but also have been able to support an open house.
Although the first year they were in business Papa Bear Apiaries ended up not having enough honey to sell, by the 3rd year their supply was large enough to start an open house, which they started four years ago now. It has become an educational and entertaining event for the community. “We set up all the equipment and extract half of our honey early and then for the actual event we do most of the rest so people can see how it is done,” notes Jeff. He continues, “this year we had a great turn-out with over twice the amount we had last year. People are interested in the bees and want to know how things are going.”
Last year, Papa Bear Apiaries produced 2,250 lbs of honey and they sold out in just two months. Jeff recalled they had to turn away buyers in the winter months because they sold out so early.
Many customers in the area have told Jeff and Renee that they buy their honey because they know it is locally produced. One of the reasons this is attractive to buyers is that the honey is produced from the pollen of local plants, which they believe helps with allergy problems.
This year, Jeff and Renee hope they will have all their honey sold in about three months and they plan to continue to grow steadily with demand. “If the market is there we will keep growing,” Jeff said with an eye toward the future. When asked for closing thoughts, Jeff gave a plug for supporting local honey growers across the state, “If you care about the decline of honey bees and you can’t raise bees yourself, support your local bee keepers by buying honey. They are the ones keeping the hives alive.”
Papa Bear Apiaries sell bulk honey in the fall while supplies last. If you are interested in learning more about Papa Bear Apiaries you can email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Honey: A Tip From Renee Lueck
Raw, pure honey will crystallize depending on sugar content within six months. Do not refrigerate and if it does crystallize do not microwave. This breaks down the healthy enzymes/attributes of the honey.
Instead to soften your honey to a spreadable state again boil water and place honey in that to liquify.
Renee has grown up around honey growers and shares that for her producing honey has been an enjoyable activity with family and friends.