Brent Barkman is the Vice Chair of Project Apis m., a third generation beekeeper and honey packer, and has been a part of the industry all his adult life. He oversees the operations of two separate bee operations that own 16,000 colonies of bees producing and pollinating in eight states. Artesian Honey Producers has 8,500 colonies based in South Dakota, wintering in Oklahoma and Texas and pollinating in California. Barkman Apiaries is based in Florida and operates bees in Michigan and New York as well as pollination in California. Barkman Honey is the family owned business that packages honey based out of Kansas supplying millions of pounds of quality honey to consumers all over the world. In addition to serving as the vice chairman of Project Apis m., Barkman has served the industry in many capacities including serving as chairman of the National Honey Board once while it was a producer board and again more recently after it was changed to a packer board. He is also a member of multiple state beekeeper organizations and both the American Honey Producers Association and American Beekeeping Federation. His memberships also include the National Honey Packers and Dealers Association and the Western States Packers and Dealers Association. He was one of the founders of True Source Honey and is a proponent of high quality traceable honey for the enjoyment of the consumer.
As I think about what to address in this article it occurs to me that procrastination is one of my best and worst qualities. I can say this was a hard task in a year that looks quite discouraging to a lot of honey producers across the northern states where a lot of the US honey is produced. I used the procrastination model successfully this time as some much-needed rain is falling in parts of the North and is lifting the spirits of some producers that are in rainfall areas. It is a sad thing as a producer to see all the potential honey sources out there and not enough moisture to let the bees take full advantage of them. Not only is there a shortage of bee pasture as corn and beans take over the landscape that used to be covered with bee friendly plants, but those that are there are thirsting for water that will let them produce nectar for the bees.
The news is not as bad in some other parts of the US as rain has come when most needed for a large crop to be produced in areas that normally do not fare as well. Some areas are even getting too much rain if that is possible. One producer in Wisconsin shared that it rains all the time, and the bees can’t work enough to fill boxes with honey. This spring it rained in California again. It was a welcome change from the drought that had covered the state for such a long time. There are some honey crops being made there that have been missing for a long time. Welcome back California! Reports from Minnesota are good, as well as Michigan. This will be an interesting year for buying domestic honey. The hope is that we can make enough honey to satisfy the need, and that customers are not forced away from the US honey they usually buy. This is an important point for producers to remember as the honey marketing season approaches.
What, you may ask, is a packer doing on the PAm Board? I am going to try to address this and share with you why it is important to me as a packer to be a part. As you read in my Bio, I am not just a packer but also a beekeeper. I rely on research to help keep my bees alive, too.
With that being said, I believe the work of PAm has taken on a needed service to the industry as the best way to screen and select research that will make a material difference sooner than what we have seen in the past. PAm has become the industry leader in selecting the research projects that can make a difference. Just last year for the first time, PAm worked with the National Honey Board to select the projects that will be funded by the 5% of assessments collected by NHB for production research. It is great to see the industry working together to use the strength of different organizations to grow and strengthen the industry as a whole. This is truly an industry-wide effort to do what is best and not protect territory for fear of losing prominence. This is one of the things that attracted me to serve on the PAm Board.
We are a group of bee people and others that are looking for the tools needed to make sure we are good stewards of our bees. We want to provide honey for consumers as well as provide a service to the growers of other products that rely on us for pollination. These are often competing parts of our job as producers. We are doing things with our hives that make bees good pollinators for those that rely on them. Some of the things we do to assure they are healthy pollinator hives can damage their potential to be good honey producing bees. We have had to be educated with a Masters in Bee Husbandry to learn to take care of and be great caretakers of the bee. It should be noted that beekeepers are just that Keepers of the Bees. We must do everything in our power to help the little creatures fight all the battles they fight with pests, pesticides, lack of bee forage, and an overall fear of them by most of the public.
PAm is working hard to correct some of the problems and give tools to those who care about the bee as much as the beekeepers. In addition to Pam's Honey Bee Health Research programs, Seeds for Bees is a great example of giving the almond grower a tool to help take care of the bees that are so valuable to them, and The Bee and Butterfly Habitat Fund is a program that is just getting a good start in changing the landscape of the farming community that will help create a sustainable environment which benefits nature and farmers alike. These approaches work together to secure what we do as packers, producers, pollinators and Keepers of the Bees.
Project Apis m. Board Member