participants from South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia.
He has also hosted Bee Days every spring for new, hobbyist, and
commercial beekeepers. At these events, Owen provides packages
of new bees to people from as far away as Wisconsin. ‘It is hard
work, but so worth the excitement,” he says.
He started Bee Well Honey Farm & Supply Inc. as a family
business from home.
From 2002 to 2006, he has held annual festivals on his farm
aimed at educating the public about beekeeping. During these
years, he ran his store from his farm before moving the store to
“We’re into agri-tourism,” says Owen. He has facilities so
customers can watch him extract honey. In another classroom
setting, he offers classes in making candles and health and beauty
products from beeswax.
Owen grew up in North Carolina and grew bell peppers as
a 4-H project. “My dad had 22 acres of tomatoes and he raised
rainbow trout in Transylvania County, N.C.
As a young man, Owen worked in radio and television
broadcasting until about 1999, when the station he worked at
was sold. That’s when he decided to venture into beekeeping. It
was a humble beginning: He extracted honey in his wife’s kitchen,
and sold honey on the honor system from a roadside stand that
doubled as a school bus stop.
Owen is too young to retire now, but says he wants to spend his
winter years driving around in his 1954 Ford pickup and looking
at his healthy bees. He has been a member of beekeeping
organizations for Georgia, South Carolina, Pickens County, the
Piedmont, and Spartanburg. He is incoming president of the S.C.
Beekeepers Association, and is a frequent guest speaker at bee
association meetings. He donates beehives to local schools and
has been a strong supporter of local scholarships and the Pickens
Owen is a member of Pickens Presbyterian Church, Farm
Bureau, and the Architectural Review Board of Pickens. He
supports honey and bee research at Clemson and the University
of Georgia, and is a volunteer assistant to the S.C. Apiculturist.
He has been a fundraiser to save bees, has raised funds for St.
Jude Children’s Hospital, Shriners hospitals, and the Make-A-Wish
Foundation. He has partnered with the South Carolina Vocational
Rehabilitation Department in hiring disabled individuals to label
his honey jars.
His wife, Donna worked as clerk for the Pickens County Council.
She has been a member of the Pickens Chamber of Commerce,
Kerry and Donna have two young adult children, daughter
Britney Owen Ward, and son Stetson Colby Owen. As children,
Britney and Stetson earned allowance money painting bee boxes.
Britney is an expert on “fair trade” coffee, natural foods, vitamins,
herbs, and beauty products sold at the store. Stetson works as a
firefighter in Pickens County, and also works in the family’s bee
business. He’s especially good at safely moving bees.
Brian Callahan with the Clemson Extension Service coordinates
the Farmer of the Year award in South Carolina. Owen was
nominated for the honor by Lindsey Craig, Extension agent in
Pickens, S.C. “Most people don’t think of beekeeping and honey
production as farming, but it is,” says Craig. “It is impressive when
you see the scale of his honey production and the new techniques
he has developed.”
As the South Carolina state winner of the Swisher Sweets/
Sunbelt Expo award, Owen will receive a $2,500 cash award
and an expense paid trip to the Sunbelt Expo from Swisher
International of Jacksonville, Fla., a $500 gift certificate from the
Southern States cooperative, and a Columbia vest from Ivey’s
Outdoor and Farm Supply.
He is now eligible for the $15,000 that will go to the overall
winner. Other prizes for the overall winner include use of a Massey
Ferguson tractor for a year from Massey Ferguson North America,
another $500 gift certificate from the Southern States cooperative,
a Columbia jacket from Ivey’s Outdoor and Farm Supply, and a
smoker-grill from Hays LTI.
Swisher International, through its Swisher Sweets cigar brand,
and the Sunbelt Expo are sponsoring the Southeastern Farmer
of the Year awards for the 27th consecutive year. Swisher has
contributed $1.04 million in cash awards and other honors to
southeastern farmers since the award was initiated in 1990.
Previous state winners from South Carolina include Earl
Thrailkill of Fort Lawn, 1990; Charles Snowden of Hemingway,
1991; Robert E. Connelly, Sr. of Ulmer, 1992; Henry Elliott, Sr. of
Andrews, 1993; Ron Stephenson of Chester, 1994; Greg Hyman
of Conway, 1995; Randy Lovett of Nichols, 1996; David Drew of
Mullins, 1997; Jerry Edge of Conway, 1998; Blake McIntyre, III
of Marion, 1999; Raymond Galloway of Darlington, 2000; W. R.
Simpson of Manning, 2001.
Gill Rogers of Hartsville, 2002; Harold Pitts of Newberry, 2003;
Earl Thrailkill of Fort Lawn, 2004; Chalmers Carr of Ridge Spring,
2005; Steve Gamble of Sardinia, 2006; William Johnson of Conway,
2007; Kent Wannamaker of St. Matthews, 2008; Thomas DuRant
of Gable, 2009; Marty Easler of Greeleyville, 2010; Kevin Elliott
of Nichols, 2011; Monty Rast of Cameron, 2012; James Cooley
of Chesnee, 2013; Walter Dantzler of Santee, 2014; and Tom
Trantham of Pelzer, 2015.
South Carolina has had two overall winners, Ron Stephenson of
Chester in 1994, and James Cooley of Chesnee in 2013.
For more information, call:
Walt Morgan, DSM: (803) 480-4606
Hal Russel, DSM: (229) 702-6800
Keith Flaniken, Agronomist: (901) 484-1575
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