Bees arrive at Ag Center

Starting a Package of Bees

It was the dawn of a new era at the Ag Center when, on March 30, Reda Harvey from the Mill Spring Ag Store and I embarked on a trip to bring a package of bees to their new home.

The bees returned to the Ag Center where I was eager to begin. We set out the box in a prepared hive body with a small super on top, tacked the queen to a frame, and waited for the bees to release her. Today, we have an active colony but one that still needs attention. There are few points that I learned from keeping a new package of bees that are important as the colony establishes itself:

  • Keep them fed

Package bees arrive in early spring at the start of the nectar flow. The nectar flow is wasted if bees use their entire energy drawing comb. It takes 8 pounds of nectar to make one pound of wax in the hive, so to help a new hive get established one feeds sugar syrup. There are different types of feeders, but they can be as simple as a zip-lock bag.

Mix 1:1 sugar syrup by weight, so use about eight pounds of sugar for one gallon of water, and feed until the comb is built out.

  • Don’t check them too often

Eager beekeepers like to check their new colony to see if they are getting established. It is important to make sure that the queen is free and out of the queen cage after a few days, but it is not necessary to check your bees too often. I just looked to see if the comb was drawn out today, and it has been about three weeks since we got the hive.

Read about the event where we got our bees here:


Creating community through food….

Since January of this year we have been working diligently to start a new and exciting program in Polk County.  It has become very clear that though we live in the country of plenty, many people struggle to put food on their table.

The cost of food continues to rise, and affordable food often comes with the price tag of high sodium, sugar, fat, and preservatives.

There is a simple solution to all of this, and it is gardening.

Research has shown that during times of crisis there is an increase in the use of home and community gardens.  The Victory Gardens during WWI and WWII, Relief Gardens during the great depression, etc.  Perhaps we must come to the same realization, that growing our own food is a way to relieve some of our financial burdens.


I say this is simple, but really it takes more than throwing some seeds in the ground and hoping for the best.  Those who grew Victory and Relief Gardens had a generational understanding of agricultural skills as well as food preparation and preservation.  In the era of quick meals and fast food dinners, many people don’t even own a skillet, let alone know how to can vegetables for the winter.

That is why the Polk County Government, Mill Spring Agricultural Center, and other county partners have joined forces with Groundswell International, a non-profit based out of Asheville, North Carolina to address food insecurity in Polk County.  Through the installation of edible landscapes and micro-farms we hope to empower families and strengthen communities across the County.

We will be kicking off the project by transforming a community in Polk County to an edible landscape.  With the installation of fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, grapes, and several home garden plots, we hope to create a land of plenty.  The project is well underway, and landscaping is planned for late May.

But as I said, it is not as simple as planting.  In addition to the landscaping we will be offering workshops for the residents to gain skills in growing, preparing, and preserving their own food.  Over the next three years the project plans to install edible landscapes at two other sites, and create a workable model for communities across Western North Carolina to utilize.

The first step is often the hardest, but it’s time we start to address food insecurity in Western North Carolina.


For more information about the project visit our partner’s website at: