Certain animals can become useful under the right conditions. Bees, for example, can produce honey. Boys, as another example, can keep bees. This is the concept behind Brinkman Brothers Honey of Grant County, North Dakota, where 14-year-old Ray and 12-year-old Ryan are farming the raw, unfiltered good stuff.
“Beekeeping was my dad Tim’s idea,” said Ray. “He wanted us to do something productive with our land, and he also wanted my brother and I to build a good work ethic. I was in third grade when we started, and Ryan was in first, so dad learned how to keep bees from books and YouTube and then taught it to my brother and me.
“We started out with only two hives, but that still made 20 gallons – way more than my family could eat. We sold some to our neighbors, and they loved its mild taste and clear golden color. A lot of people told us that our honey was the lightest color they had ever seen. Another beekeeper told us our honey is definitely grade A. With such a good response we kept adding more hives and more bees, and now Brinkman Brothers Honey is a Pride of Dakota business.”
“We’ve had honey from New Hampshire and Michigan,” said Ryan. “I wouldn’t say it tastes like cough syrup, but it definitely kind of looks like cough syrup because it’s so dark colored. I think honey should look like liquid gold, like ours.”
“A lot of the bigger operations take their bees out to California in the winter, but ours stay around the Grant County area all year round,” Ray continued. “They mostly eat the nectar and pollen from clover flowers that grow along the Cannonball River, along with other wildflowers and a little alfalfa here and there. That means it’s truly authentic North Dakota honey.
“Keeping bees is scary at first, but after a while you get used to it. Once you’re completely covered up you know they’re not going to get through to sting you. The only real danger is when you don’t smoke them correctly, or when it gets hot out and your sweaty clothes stick to your skin. One day the bees were in a really bad mood and stung me 20 times on each arm. We invested in better beekeeping gloves after that happened.”
“I got stung ten times once,” Ryan added.
“It’s a lot of work keeping bees,” said Ray. “We have to feed them syrup and pollen patties from fall, through the winter, and into the spring. We also have to wrap them in insulated bags to keep them warm in the winter. Once they’re wrapped up they’ll handle the rest. Bees can keep it 70 degrees inside of their hive when it’s 30 below outside.”
“Beekeeping taught us how to work hard, and appreciate the value of a dollar,” said Ryan. “If a queen dies, the hive will focus on raising a new queen or possibly die off completely, cutting production and significantly reducing our profit for the year. Mom does all of our marketing, but my brother and I got really good at talking to people and showing them our honey at Pride of Dakota events. I like when people enjoy something that we made ourselves. It makes me feel proud.”
“Honey farming is fun, but when I think about beekeepers who have to keep 5,000 hives I’m not sure I want to do it for a living,” said Ray. “I’d kind of like to get an electrical engineering degree, and just keep a few hives to provide honey for my family.”
“When I grow up, I was thinking I could become a chef because I enjoy cooking a lot,” said Ryan. “I also like building things, which is why I’m in charge of putting up the tent when we go camping. Maybe I’ll become an architect?”
Brinkman Brothers Honey is the essence of the beautiful state of North Dakota decanted into a glass jar. Order it and you’ll not only be able to perfectly sweeten your winter drinks and baked things. You’ll also be investing in two future leaders, intent on putting their hard-earned skills to work for good and prosperity.
Please visit facebook.com/brinkbrohoney to learn more about the Brinkman brothers and order their fine honey. You can also reach out to Heather, the Brinkmans’ director of marketing/mothering, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By David Scheller