By Colleen Lentile, photos by Travis Walker
Aug 3, 2018 09:10 AM
Bearded and busy, Winchester local Travis Walker took a childhood dream of continuing his family’s farming legacy and turned it into a sought after product worthy of expansion. Nestled into Chilly Hollow Farm, in Berryville, VA, you’ll find a small apiary where Bee Beard Honey lives.
For Walker, it started with the desire to have “a little farm” and some research on seasonal allergies being subdued by local honey, but then it grew.
“I never really thought about making a small business out of it until friends started telling me how the honey was compared to what they got elsewhere,” said Walker. Now he focuses on “[giving] people honey that is top-notch,” and they are getting it “just as raw as they can.”
As a fairly young apiary, Bee Beard Honey is coming into a practice and product that has seen better days. According to Keith Tignor, Virginia’s state apiarist, “erratic weather and a rainy spring led to a loss of 60 percent of bee colonies in the Commonwealth” where in an “average year, the rate of loss is around 30 to 40 percent.”
Walker saw some of this weather damage as he lost two hives over the winter, but has new hope due to the Beehive Distribution Program that Virginia instated in early July 2018 in “an effort to increase the number of actively managed bee colonies across the Commonwealth.”
“I think it’s important for people to invest in local honey the same they would invest in any other local business,” said Walker. “No bees, no apples; no apples, no Apple Blossom. And that’s just unacceptable.”
With the new program’s aid, Walker hopes to continue to grow his business by adding three to five new hives in an attempt to meet the demand of his product. Bee Beard Honey recently partnered with Roma Old-Town Wood-Fired Pizza on a featured cocktail called the Honey Bourbon Smash, featuring Bee Beard Honey infused bourbon, lemon and local mint. They also often partner with Mandy Jackson at The Juice Jar on specialty juices.
Walker hopes to build more business relationships with local restaurants and breweries and to one day produce a honey beer. Right now, he is concentrating on growing his hives and hoping that the Bee Distribution Program will set him up for a successful season next year.
“Bees pollinate so much of our daily food,” said Walker. “Investing in local honey and local beekeepers is kind of like you’re putting groceries in your future fridge.”
You can follow Bee Beard Honey and their progress with the Bee Distribution Program on Instagram @beebeardhoney. To not miss out on any of their partnerships with Winchester businesses, follow us on Instagram @wincfood.