Most people start a business primarily to make some money. After all, it takes a lot of time, effort and money just to get a new business up and running. Not the Woods Family though. Alan and his wife Beverly began Woods Bee Company after their daughter Shana, who worked at the Centralia Deli Honey Hut, started talking to them about the plight of the honeybee. Shana purchased an educational class for her father over a decade ago. They soon felt it was their duty to help save a species that is vital to our food supply.
Alan started out with a free hive he found in a shop, his passion (and bees) grew from there. They started telling others about the honey bee problem and why they are so important to the ecosystem. “Without the bees, we wouldn’t have food,” Alan says. “They are important, and we need to keep them going.” Unlike many agricultural endeavors, you do not need a lot of space to keep bees. The Woods family started their beekeeping endeavors in the backyard of their suburban home in Centralia Washington before moving to their present home and 2+ acre apiary just outside of town.
Alan works (full-time) on Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) in Information Technology (IT), is the President of the Washington State Beekeepers Association (WASBA), sits on the Board of Directors for the Veterans Ecological Trades Collective (VETC), and is the pastor at Trinity Christian Fellowship in Chehalis. Bev is a part-time preschool teacher, operates their beekeeping supply and retail store, handcrafts both beautiful and delicious “value added products” for their business, and is a fully engaged mother, grandmother, and community member. Since they both have (many) other jobs, the Woods Bee Company has never been about making money. At its heart it is about helping people help the bees.
So how do they keep prices low for their customers? They do so by only raising the costs of the products they resell by just enough to cover their operating expenses, instead of the standard retail mark-up. “We don’t even take salaries,” explains Bev. “And we don’t have really high overhead because our store is on our property. That helps us keep prices low.”
The Woods now have over 200 hives and sell raw honey, creamed honey, comb honey, wax, candles and much more. They also sell everything a prospective beekeeper would need, including growing boxes, queen-rearing kits, books, bee-friendly plant seeds and beekeeper suits.
‘It’s not really a living, it’s a lifestyle, taking care of the bees,” Beverly said.
And of course, local honey is great for allergy sufferers. “I used to have to drive to Olympia once a month for an allergy shot,” says Bev. “Since eating our local honey, I haven’t even had to take an over the counter allergy medication. It’s been great!”
Alan and Bev are passionate about supporting beekeepers. They have a newsletter; blog; as well as train, WASBA certify, and mentor dozens of beekeepers (at all levels) throughout the year. Alan also travels to people’s homes to help them get set up and teach them about beekeeping. “I want to teach others how to do this for themselves,” he says. He charges just enough to cover gas and maybe a bit of his time, with the goal that after a bit, he will not be needed anymore except for supplies. He said he provides that service because it is hard to find someone in the bee industry willing to teach. “I had to drive to Stanwood to talk with someone willing to mentor me when I first started,” he explains.
Alan is a 23 year Veteran of the US Army, and like so many, he continues to battle the physical and mental aftereffects of his service. Several years ago he began supplying equipment to and then mentoring prisoners on JBLM as new beekeepers. Alan helped them grow from 2 to over 12 hives and has certified dozens of beginner and apprentice beekeepers. Alan and Beverly are passionate about supporting Veterans and have been instrumental in the planning, partnering, and implementation of our newest project “Healing Through Hives”.
Healing Through Hives is a robust project with powerful partnerships. GRuB, the Washington State Beekeepers Association, and the Washington Chapter of the Farmer Veteran Coalition have joined forces to educate and support Veterans as beginning farmers and beekeepers and aim to increase the number of viable apiaries (honey bee farms) operated by Veterans in western Washington. They’re doing this by creating pathways for prospective and beginning farmer Veteran beekeepers to access programs and resources that help them overcome the barriers they face as beginning farmers (such as access to training, land, capital, mentoring, markets) and the barriers they face as Veterans (such as transition to civilian life, mental health challenges, and low-income). These pathways are supported and led by farmers (particularly beekeepers) and military Veterans.
written by Beau Gromley on October 04, 2022.