The buzz factor

| Print |  Email
Archives - July 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
0602bees33Nick Hampshire and his beehives at Sunny Knoll Apiary in Gaston.
PHOTO BY LEAH NASH
Nickolas Hampshire was a senior in high school when his father gave him $2,000 and an ultimatum: Turn your beekeeping hobby into a viable business, or you can’t graduate.

Since Nick was home-schooled, he didn’t have much choice.

“It was his senior project,” Bob Hampshire says. “I wanted him to learn how to get a business license, set up a business, run it and keep the books.” He admits he also wanted the honey.

So in 2006, Nick Hampshire founded Sunny Knoll Apiary, named after the 94-year-old farm in Gaston where he lives with his mother, father and nine siblings. He built a pollination business and recouped the $2,000 in the first year. Then he started selling honey through a co-op in Hillsboro. But he found his niche this year when he started selling natural hives to hobby beekeepers.

Interest in hobby beekeeping has spiked recently because of concern about domestic honeybee populations in Western countries, which have been declining since 2004 for reasons that are in dispute. (Climate change, mites and the heavy use of chemicals are among the speculated causes.) The resulting publicity has sparked an interest in backyard beekeeping. Unlike commercial beekeepers, hobbyists can take care of their bees without using chemicals, and Hampshire wants to teach them how. He sells Warre hives, considered more natural because they allow the bees to build their own comb, for $197 each and starter kits for $97 each. He’s sold about 80 hives and kits in the last three months. He maintains a website (thebeespace.net) about natural beekeeping that has had about 47,000 unique visitors since January.

Bees first arrived on the Sunny Knoll Farm when Hampshire was 12 or 13. They were kept on the farm property by friends who let young Nick tag along. “All the bees would be flying around your head and there is this huge, massive buzzing sound,” he says. “There’s nothing like it. It’s pretty awesome.”

But Hampshire, who is now 21, was bothered by the pesticides the beekeepers were using.

“I would always ask them, what are these chemicals you’re putting in the hives? And they would say, well, it’s recommended,” he says. “There’s a lot of information on how to keep bees, but it’s geared toward the frame beehive, it’s geared toward assuming that using chemicals is an option.”

Most beekeepers hate the thought of spraying chemicals into a box of bees, but that’s what commercial beekeepers must do to combat the devastating mites that showed up in the U.S. in 1984. The chemicals weaken the bees and build up in the wax. The mites can be prevented without using chemicals, but it requires time and attention that commercial beekeepers who keep thousands of hives can’t afford.

Hampshire says the problem is impossible to remedy without a complete reform of mass agriculture. But he wants to create a natural beekeeping movement that, little by little, could offset the damage done by commercial practices.

Hampshire is poised, articulate and so thoughtful that he seems dispassionate; but he’s obviously moved by compassion for bees and the humans who depend on them. He comes from a deeply Christian family but he doesn’t speak about God as much as he talks about the greater good.

“As a person I have to have a greater goal — to profit others, to provide value,” he says. “Making a successful business is important but it’s not the major driving force.”

Three years after his father gave him an A, Hampshire says Sunny Knoll Apiary is still in its building years. He spends about half his work week on the bee business and half on freelance web work. He launched a new website in June (warrebeehive.com) to sell his hives and kits and plans to start selling video, audio and PDF downloads in the next few months.

“This is the real thing. This is the thing that I’m going to take full term,” Hampshire says. “It’s something that I can not only pursue as a business but also pursue as my vision — a beehive in every back yard.”
ADRIANNE JEFFRIES
 

More Articles

Behind the curtain: What students should know about accreditation and rankings

Contributed Blogs
Thursday, December 04, 2014
120414-edurating-thumbBY DEBRA RINGOLD | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

How important are institutional and/or program evaluations provided by third parties in selecting a college or university program?


Read more...

See How They Run

January-Powerbook 2015
Friday, December 12, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

Studying ground-running birds, a group that ranks among nature's speediest and most agile bipedal runners, to build a faster robot.


Read more...

7 industry trends of 2015

The Latest
Friday, January 09, 2015
covertrends15-thumbBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Industry groups identify top trends for 2015.


Read more...

4 married couples who work together

The Latest
Thursday, January 22, 2015
IMG 0020BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

They say maintaining a healthy marriage takes work. So does running a business with your spouse.


Read more...

Legislative Preview: A Shifting Balance

January-Powerbook 2015
Thursday, December 11, 2014
BY APRIL STREETER

Democratic gains pave the way for a revival of environment and labor bills as revenue reform languishes.


Read more...

The city as startup

Guest Blog
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
011415 citystartup-thumbBY NISHANT BHAJARIA | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

Startups in the growth phase are associated with a fresh infusion of capital — human and financial — a curiosity factor and products to disrupt the market and drive demand. Portland’s economy gives off the same aroma.


Read more...

Powerbook Perspective

January-Powerbook 2015
Friday, December 12, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

A conversation with Oregon state economist Josh Lehner.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS