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GLENOMA — Set amid towering hillsides in the hamlet of Glenoma is Dave Elliott and Kathy Blake’s 13-acre homestead. There is a small vegetable garden and an assortment of decades-old, time-worn apple and cherry trees — planted long before the two arrived. But the couple, who are engaged to be married, are not farmers. Their business lies in the buzz.
Dave and Kathy are beekeepers and co-owners of Four Cedars Apiary, which Kathy started five years ago after noticing their property was a hot-spot for wild swarms, a grouping of bees that have branched off from the main colony in search of a new home.
Kathy’s father raised bees for over 30 years and her uncle still operates a beeyard, so when her and Dave decided to start their own, she knew just who to call.
“We talked to her father and he said, ‘Yeah, I’ll teach you about bees,’” Elliott said.
Now, through the help of family members, including the soon-to-be introduction of their 13-year-old grandson to the family calling, Dave and Kathy have built a burgeoning bee business.
Dave and Kathy have 50 total colonies, which hold between 20,000 to 80,000 bees per colony, across their two beeyards, both located in Glenoma. The main yard is on their 13-acre home property and the second beeyard is on nine acres surrounded by timber.
“We’re growing rapidly,” Elliott said. “This time next year we’re going to go up to 75-80 hives. The goal is a couple hundred hives. I’ll have to hire local, summer help around the community when we get that big.”
They breed the colonies themselves and split them up over winter to create more hives. They also buy nucleus colonies, as well, to compensate for the colonies that don’t survive winter.
Four Cedars Apiary sells liquid honey, creamed honey, soaps, candles, chapsticks, raw beeswax, honey straws and even handmade jewelry. The flavored cream honey that has seven different flavors is the best-seller, which customers like to put on toast and bagels in place of butter.
“We use everything the hives give us,” Elliott said. “We process and repurpose everything.”
They are not, however, certified organic. Bees forage in a 3-square-mile radius and it is impossible to control where they will go in search of pollination. Beehives have to be 20 miles from the nearest road to gain certified organic status, Elliott said, and their flagship site is just off State Route 12. One would also have to contend with whatever logging activity is taking place in the area, as well. It makes it extremely difficult for a beekeeper to become certified organic, even one who lives 38 miles east of Interstate 5 — over a third of the distance to Yakima.
“I think it’s a myth when it comes to honey and honeybees,” Elliott said. “There is organic honey, I’m not saying there’s not, but, no, we can’t do that.”
Elliott is graduating from the University of Montana on Aug. 31 as a certified master beekeeper, a certification he’s been working on for two years. It’s because Dave and Kathy are opening a retail store on their property in the old Glenoma post office on the 100 block of Eastman Drive. There is no definitive date set for the grand opening but they are hoping to open their doors by Labor Day Weekend.
“Kathy and I want to be able to teach and train people about how to keep their bees alive,” Elliott said. “The more I learn the more I can share with other people.”
Anyone interested in purchasing products from Four Cedars Apiary can do so by visiting its website at www.fourcedarsapiary.com. Dave and Kathy are also at the Morton Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., every Saturday until the end of September. They also sell their honey at Blanton’s Market in Packwood, the Morton Country Market, the Morton Meat Company, Morton Town and Country Flowers and occasionally at the Northwest Home Center in Morton.