South Carolina’s Kerry Owen
helps promote agriculture
Kerry Owen of Pickens, S.C., has had a sweet ride as an innovative producer of farm-raised honey — he’s a busy beekeeper who markets his own Bee Well brand of honey. A di;erent type of farmer, Owen markets honey, bees,
and beekeeping supplies. He keeps bees on 26 farms in three
states — South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia — and sells
his honey to more than 400 stores throughout the Southeast.
His beekeeping supplies provide both prospective and veteran
beekeepers with everything they need to get into honey
His success as a honey producer and beekeeper has earned
Owen honors as the state winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt
Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award. He joins nine
other individuals as finalists for the overall award that will be
announced Tuesday, Oct. 18, at the Sunbelt Expo.
Owen is the first full-time beekeeper to be named a state
winner of the Farmer of the Year award. He has created
cooperative farming relationships with others for honey
production and pollination. In addition to honey and beekeeping
supplies, he uses his Bee Well brand for his sideline land
improvement and beauty product businesses.
He keeps bees in Abbeville, Anderson, Oconee, and Pickens
counties in South Carolina, and in Transylvania County of North
Carolina. His Georgia bee locations are near the towns of Wrens
Bees have a natural range of about 2-1/2 miles in a circle. So,
with 26 locations, his bees collect nectar and produce honey
from more than 30,000 acres per year. As a migratory beekeeper,
Owen moves his hives from south to north and generally follows
springtime blooming of plants that provide nectar for his bees.
“For instance, we move bees to North Carolina to make an
additional crop of sourwood honey,” he says.
As Owen sought farmers who would allow him to keep bees
on their land, he
would ask property
owners not to use
the bees. He has
developed a good
seek him out and volunteer to host his bees.
“We have our own retail store, Bee Well Honey Natural Market
& Bee Supply,” says Owen. His store provides jobs for about a
dozen people from the Pickens area. At the store, Owen o;ers
classes on beekeeping and sells wholesome locally grown food
products, “fair trade” co;ee products, and a complete line of
cosmetics made from honey and beeswax.
While honey can be stored for long periods without going bad,
Owen likes to sell his honey when it’s fresh. “What goes on the
truck was bottled last night,” he says. He makes weekly deliveries
of honey to his main customers, and also supplies honey to other
beekeepers who need it to meet their sales requirements.
He has been able to manage damaging varroa mites by using
natural plant-based controls such as essential oils. One of the
beekeeping industry’s major problems is called colony collapse
disorder, and Owen attributes its cause, directly or indirectly, to
Environmental protection includes recycling honey jars. He
disinfects beehives rather than throwing them away, and he
designed a special warming method for his honey that uses a hot
water heater to warm a milk tank. He has planted nectar-bearing
crops and has provided pollination services for fruit and vegetable
Owen has hosted Bee Well boot camps to teach others about the
art of beekeeping. He started doing this on his farm, and has had
Kerry Owen and wife Donna, top, and Kerry Owen
and Lindsey Craig, who nominated Kerry for the
Farmer of the Year award.