Why Im a Beekeeper: Laura Kimball, TruBee Honey
Have you heard the buzz. Bees are cool. Okay that was a little corny but really more and more people are thinking about bees and how they are important or into agriculture. Why are they so important? How do we protect them? And why are people so passionate about beekeeping. Hello and welcome into the Tennessee magic moments podcast where we celebrate agriculture in our everyday life. I'm Samantha Jean. Nearly one third of our food supply depends on insect pollination most of which is accomplished by bees. You could say that they are the world's most important pollinator today. My guest knows a lot about bees. She's an entrepreneur that has taken pure curiosity and has turned into a sweet thriving. Local Business Laura Kimball with truly honey Laura Hi Samantha. How are you doing good today? So we are gathered around Laura's kitchen table or dining room table in Arlington in Tennessee and Arlington area. Tearing Arrington Tennessee. There's like so many pronounce totally every city in in the state. You got to know what you're doing but I drove down the road to such a quaint area and outside your home. Is this little sign that says local honey for sale so sorry back at the beginning. How did you get interested in and beekeeping? Well it's a long story but pretty simple. My husband and I eight both lived in North Carolina before we moved here and his name is Jeff Auto. He's a photographer was a photo journalist. And I was a writer and editor. We both worked in newspapers. Newspapers and I did a feature story about a season to be caper named James Smith and this is on the coast of North Carolina and it turned out that Jeff Fred my story and was very interested because he grew up next to a beekeeper and always wanted to keep bees so that year for Christmas. I got him a behalf as a surprise and he was very surprised and the next spring we got two colonies of bees to raise in our backyard and we were hobbyists for a few years and just kind of got hooked that way. We still had our normal jobs and the bees required not a ton of care when you have that few but but we really enjoyed it and then our colonies grew to about maybe eight hives in the backyard and then we had too much honey for for just for us in our friends so we thought maybe there was a market for it. We started selling honey at the Wilmington Riverfront farmers market. And we're so surprised. Because is the first Saturday we went to that farmers market. We didn't know what to expect. We thought on the way over to go for Bridge to get to the downtown area and on the way there we thought this is ridiculous. No one's going to buy our honey. This is going to embarrass ourselves and a few hours later. We had no money left and we were driving home with nothing in the car data so it was great and we stayed really small like that for several years and when we moved to Franklin and Arrington in two thousand and seven we started selling the Franklin farmers market and did that a few years and just kind of started to grow a grassroots following for raw local. Honey that's where it began. We we have a daughter and we just did this on Saturdays for a long time but doing farmers markets every Saturday is a huge commitment. Anyone anyone that farms and does the markets knows and many people do several markets a week in the spring and Summer seasons but we kind of started thinking that we'd also like to to wholesale and it's hard to do both so we embarked on sighing honey to a few local places wholesale in it's kind of grown from there. So you said when you I got interested in that you both had other jobs. Yes so at. What point did it become? You know we don't have to do our other jobs or was there there. You remember the moment where you thought. Hey I want to make this my career instead. I think it's partly the the beekeeping is only part of our of our business so much of our business has relied on our creativity and our communication skills calls just photography for advertising marketing. So I think there was a point where we thought instead of putting all our energy into other people's businesses. You know such as newspapers magazines things like that. Why don't we put all of our energy oliver creative energy into our business something that we can control the output of and some of the benefits of his? Well now this one thing to say that it's had a pipe dream but it's a lot of work. Yeah and I felt sometimes like the wizard of Oz is like you know. I'm wearing all these different hats selling hunting and talking to the customers ordering labels all these different things but I'm controlling my own destiny and it's exhausting but there is a feeling of accomplishment and you know what you asked about was sort of about a jumping off point and I think think for a long time we both did both and grew the business to a point where one of us could do it full time and that was me. It was kind of also at the time. Our daughter was starting kindergarten kindergarten and I was working nights so we kind of made a commitment to a lifestyle that we we. Don't WANNA be. We don't want to never see her You you know so I start my job at Kennedy. Do some freelance writing and the business full-time. He continued to work pretty much eighty hour weeks because he was doing trubisky fulltime and the photography. So there's always a jumping off well and that's not uncommon. Most people are not I. It's hard to say most but a lot of people who work in agriculture or in farming. have jobs off the farm. That's kind of Louis. Some of the reality that we're seeing today but I think it's exciting in that your story is. Is You know kind of an opposite direction where you had no farming background that's right Yuletide title agriculture and found yourself coming onto the farm of essence. Jeff had some agricultural background. He grew up in New York kind of close to Niagara Falls and he worked in orchards. And places like that as a kid needs to make extra money greenhouses so he has way more background in that than I do and part of my reporting work when we lived on the coast was a lot of environmental reporting it so we have sort of news backgrounds rounds in reporting and facts but yet no hands on no real hands on running of an agricultural business so if you if you went back in time and found your sure maybe fifteen year old self and said Hey. This is what you're going to be doing when you grow up. Do you think she would like look at you and just sit me like what. I'm going to work with bees and and Huntingdale I tell you what I think the BS. It'd be a surprise for sure that never entered my mind at all and and but I don't think my fifteen year old self will be surprised that I'm kind of margin to a different beat. Yeah now speaking you know being surprised What is an area about beekeeping or maybe having a small business that has been surprising to you I think for me? I think this is probably the most surprising thing to everyone about beekeeping because there is a lot of publicity about bees now and it's really romanticized and bees. These are in danger There's no doubt about that. And that's not what I'm talking about. The notion of keeping bees and being one with nature and being one with the bees is is very romanticized bees. Do staying people do have allergic reactions in beekeeping at the level that we do it is a lot of backbreaking work. We got to be outside and hundred degree weather. Because that's when the beezer flying an suit yes and it's it's I think most people will be surprised. How much work beekeeping really is? Yeah it's not easy let alone doing it on the scale that you guys are yes as far as packaging and bottling gene and marketing and I think a lot of small businesses are romanticized to use your word and then when you get into it you you realize. Oh Wow there's a lot of work and I think something we kind of touched on earlier too is that To make it as an agricultural enterprise now is hard especially sort of a mom and pop operation in. I think what most farmers would agree with. Is that there has to be variety. What you offer? And we've been fortunate that there's a market to sell our honey Wholesale in stores there's a market that we've we sell online and also we do commercial pollination and so we've kind of been able to diversify our income that away so we're not relying on just one thing? Do you think that's the key to your success is the fact that you've been so diversified or do you think it's maybe you've been in a little bit more creative. What what's the secret sauce? I guess well I don't know if there is a secret I've I think part of our success specifically jeff relate each other creatively and we can we kind of agree on the image. We want to put out and the like for example the simplicity of our logo. That's something we worked really hard on the name. True be We joked that it. It's successful because it rhymes with Soobee but I don't think that's why when we thought about the name we wanted it to reflect the authenticity of the product. And it's so important to buy raw honey that you know where it came from and so we felt like the word true with would be would kind of reflect that commitment to authenticity entity and the real deal and those are things he and I agree on and so I think if we didn't have the same perspective on on And the imagery want our business to project. It'll be way harder. I think one of the things that I find really cool about your business is the the different kinds of honey that you have and how you've you've made them into different products whether it's through. Maybe some chapstick nick or the whip tiny or you know talk a little bit about about. Yeah well that that's a really good example of diversification. You know people people have been selling honey for ever and yeah. Supposedly some money was found in a pharaoh's tomb of you years ago and it was still perfectly good to eat. Surani keeps forever ever. That's so that's so interesting in crystal is a little bit. Sometimes he will ask us. What's the shelf life on this? And we you say honey keeps forever how forever and that's amazing is one of the few foods that does but everyone else hunting and everyone has their local honey source source. People that eat a lot of hunting. They they wouldn't go to their local farmer's market and buy it from someone they know and we think that's very important because the sustainability of beekeeping is only driven by honey sales. So we also wanted to broaden our sales market outside of just the people that want our local honey and we love them but with kind of a market for awesome gourmet honey products. That would so we developed the whipped. Honey that's nothing new. We just made our own kind. Just it's just honey that's been whipped spreadable texture. One of them has cinnamon in it which is great for the holidays and then our newest one has lavender in it which is kind of fun but that kind of diversification vacation has allowed us to sort of break beyond the the boundaries of just Tennessee and we have our honey. Those gourmet type products in a few sort of boutique stores Oliver the country. So that's been kind of fun. I think you've brought up a really really good point of how great a lot of the products that are made local Our are four giving of gifts and were in December and yeah he's in and that and that's a that's a great a stocking stuffer or people are thinking about parties and I got to bring a hostess gift. What do I bring? That's not just the typical you know candle or or thing of lotion. I saw someone talking I. I saw a little thing on facebook the other day where people were discussing. What is the gift that you do not like getting? We're talking about Coffee Mug or everyone has so many gifts and so yes this. This is a great way to to have a gift that is unique in but also supports the people around you the people who are your neighbors. Yeah I think Tennessee. It has a fabulous supply of what I would call consumable gifts and I think for people that have everything or even that. Don't have everything it's nice to to be given something that you can eat or a handcrafted soap that's made in the area There's there's so many things in Tennessee that are fabulous holiday gifts and a lot of them you can find on Picton products or at your local farmers market. I know the Nashville Farmers Mark has tons of different things. There including the the batch store which which carries a lot of local products and this time of year. There are a lot of local shows that are happening where you can pick up handcrafted Tennessee yeah I think a Lotta Times people just go for what's the easiest may be or you know what can what can I can I shop. That's real fast and easy to get it over with but if you really want to put a lot of thought op behind it. The like you mentioned the pig Tennessee products directory can take some of that ease out a lot of places in including yourself so online fine that makes it a little bit easier. So you're still staying local but you're getting the ease of maybe online shopping. And so that's that's exciting as well you you know one of the things that I love about buying Tennessee products is also as a as a gift for people who don't live here in aren't exposed to that. I have a lot a lot of friends that are scattered all over the United States and to send them a little piece of Tennessee. NBA This is like almost like a little piece of me. This is your stand you know the local flavors that I love and Adore and I m used to and and so it's not just about you know unique gift for those who live around you and INDAC- INDAC- but outside of tennis. Oh absolutely and those are good opportunities to do that. Yeah well you know as part of My travels this year and talking with different people on agriculture is. We're asking the question why you know. Sometimes working in agriculture related businesses like you said difficult Even small businesses are you know are can take a lot of work so you know what keeps you going. What makes you show up every single day? Okay and and tend to the bees and what. You're why I think my why is maintaining something that I've created is important to me. Of course my family depends on me. So there's that ask. But also with some agricultural jobs including beekeeping. It's somewhat seasonal and Dan so for now. The B don't hibernate but they do sort of go dormant in in the fall and winter. So there's less care for them and fortunately for us that that's typically our biggest sale seasons so at least we're not doing everything all the time it kind of it kind of rotates throughout the year. It's nice to have some variety and but I but I definitely think that are wise that we like we talked about before we enjoy the creative process of putting something out there and the affirmation that we get when people when people buy head and there's every sale we may is important to us and an affirming that we've created something worth worth buying in worth with bring into your home. It's it's flattering when people buy our product. Yeah that's cool I never thought about that affirmation of every sales affirmation that I am headed in the right direction does this does mean something. I'm reading a book about no matter. What you do everything you put out into the world world is is your art whether you're a parent or every you know a a visual artist or if you if you're a farmer if you're a teacher teacher you know whatever you do if you see it as your art and put it out there like that you'll it kind of spins it? You know you see it not just as a job but it is something important for for you and for the people around you. What great? Well you know Laura I really appreciate you taking the time to to sit. Sit Down and talk with us How can people find you? If they're interested how can they maybe sample your product. Well we're have we have a website True behind you dot dot com. It's T. R. U. Without an E.. I didn't say that before Through honey dot com. We do have a farm shop. Our farmers in Eagle Ville and we have have a little farm shop that right now seasonal hours mostly if you see a car. They're just stop. The address is on our website. And it's if you if you know that you've area it's three miles south south of the downtown on forty eight. We do sell to a lot of local shops in the Middle Tennessee area. So you can have aware to buy list on our website. You can check that out or come see us at Puerto Flea December thirteenth and fourteenth or another holiday market on December first at Green Door Gourmet. which is a Sunday like? She said if you'd like to find Ruby honey they're also on facebook twitter instagram at that at T. Tru b. e.. Honey honey that's it and as always you can find more local products near you by using the pick Tennessee products directory at pick tea and products dot or or the free mobile APP just search picked in on any mobile APP store or from all of us here at the Tennessee magic moments podcast. Thank you for listening and remember. There's no magic without ag.