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Tennessee Valley Stories

Appalachian Bee Farm owner, Diane Ravens did not set out to be a beekeeper. Her journey as a certified honeybee inspector and entrapreneur is a sweet story of cultivation and happenstance.

Have you ever thought to yourself “Honeybees are cool, I think I want to have a bee hive”? Well, that’s not exactly how I started my journey. I was thrust into the bee world very unexpectedly. After purchasing a property from an estate, the previous owner was a beekeeper who sold honey for 50 years out of his home in rural Tennessee.

Let me tell you a little about myself. I am a person that does not do bugs. I will clarify, if a spider was crawling near me, I would knock down anything in my path to remove me from the situation. Or, if I was outside in the back yard and I heard a honey bee buzz, I would bolt. I thought I would meet my demise. So when bees entered my life, well, I wasn’t entertaining the idea whatsoever. Until… I went to the library and started reading about honeybees. Who knew they were such fascinating insects. Honeybees are not native to North America, they came over on ships from Europe, and were carted across the country by horse and wagon. Did you know that honey never spoils, and is packed full of vitamins and has so many benefits. All these things peaked my interest into the honeybee world.

When my interest was so peaked that I decided to start opening some of the hives so I could see what was inside, the old and dilapidated equipment would fall apart in my hands. Yes, with honeybees still inside. The bees didn’t appreciate my rudeness of destroying their home, and I didn’t appreciate how they showed me just how much they loved me for trying to be a spectator. There were several instances where I was running down the road trying to outrun stinging bees.

I don’t recommend starting beekeeping in this manner. The average smart person would have run for the hills. But not me. I wanted to dive in deeper to see everything I read about. I wanted to see the queen, the eggs, where they store the honey, the bees dance, and a myriad of other wonders I read about. That was 29 years ago and the beginning of my fondness for this beloved and resourceful insect, and I haven’t looked back. I have spent many years collecting honey, pollinating crops, educating people about the importance of honeybees, and making products with contributions from the beehive. I have co-founded a local bee association, and am a certified honeybee inspector for the state where I live. Not bad for someone who was afraid of bees.

If you decide beekeeping is for you, it will be a journey that you will never forget. It is hard work at times, fascinating at times, and the end result will not only be honey at the end of the rainbow, but a life changing journey that you will cherish forever.

A word of advice: Learn as much as you can about honeybees before you get your first hive, look for a local bee association in your area to find mentors, and enjoy the ride!

Join me in celebrating the honeybee!

Diane Ravens

Appalachian Bee Farm email