Sweet deal: Family tradition of raising bees grows into Homestead Honey Co.

December 2015 Posted in Business
Mike Roth, owner of Homestead Honey Co.

Mike Roth, owner of Homestead Honey Co.

By Kali Ramey Martin

Mike Roth has had bees in his family since the 1800s. His great-grandfather had more than 80 hives from 1894-96 in the Canby area.

“I guess you could say I have bees in my blood,” Roth said.

He developed his own love for bees when his dad kept them in the 1960s.

“My dad quit before I was old enough to help, but I kind of just fell in love with the smell of bees,” Roth said.

When his family moved back to the Willamette Valley from the Oregon Coast he bought an empty hive. When a wild swarm moved in, he observed them with great fascination.

“I used to kind of just open the lid, watch them and run,” he chuckled. “But I loved it.”

Love is exactly what led him to dive into beekeeping, honey making and pollination service a little over six years ago, despite his dad’s warnings that “the things were too much work.” He formed Homestead Honey Co. and hasn’t looked back.

“It was like I realized one day nobody’s telling me I can’t anymore. I’m getting some!” Roth said. He began to read everything he could get his hands on. His first year he bought two packages of bulk bees, caught a handful of wild swarms and ended up with about 25 working hives, which have multiplied.

“Bees are fascinating. Industrious. Fun. They just make sense to me,” Roth said.

He is currently working between 90 to 95 hives spread around a few “honey yards” in the area. His bees spend the early spring working pollination contracts for local growers of radish seed, apricots, cherries and sometimes berries, before being brought back to the yards in late summer for the honey harvest. In years past, his bees have even traveled down to California to help with the almond blossoms before making their way home for the local crops.

Roth extracts his honey on the first of August before getting his bees settled in for the cold months. This year he harvested around 100 gallons of honey, despite the dryer summer, which usually means a smaller yield.

A big believer in maintaining the flavor nuances of honey through small batch extraction, Roth packages by the jar rather than larger gallon buckets, and avoids specific classifications like “clover” or “fireweed.”

“Honey should have an individual flavor,” Roth said. With one of his honey yards near town and one in the country, he gives his bees access to a wide variety of flowers. The town bees tend to produce honey with a strong flavor and darker color. The country bees make a lighter honey with more depth of flavor, he explained.

Greater than his love for keeping bees and making honey is Roth’s passion for education. He can often be found at elementary schools or the Silverton Farmer’s Market sharing the magic of beekeeping.

“I love my bees, their personalities and I love what I do. But most of all, I really enjoy talking about them,” he adds.

Homestead Honey can be found at the Silverton Farmer’s Market during market season, The Chocolate Box in downtown Silverton and Roth will be participating in Silverton’s Food Co-Op, Local Motive. It can also be purchased directly through Homestead Honey Co’s Facebook page.

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