By Denise DePaolo
Images by Elizabeth Lucille Photography
Josh Montgomery has had honey on his mind since he was just a kid. At 14, he was recruited by a neighbor in his tiny hometown of Fairview to do the “dirty jobs” around his apiary. Each summer, Montgomery was given more responsibility, and gained more knowledge about what it meant to be a beekeeper. Fast forward a decade, and he is selling his own product under the label Newton Hills Honey.
After working an uninspiring stint at a financial institution, Montgomery returned to Fairview to work full time for his former boss, Lyndon Ryder of Big Sioux River Honey. BSRH is a commercial operation with roughly 1,800 hives, spread out in about 50 locations. It’s work that gives Montgomery a lot of satisfaction.
“You get to see a product of your work from beginning to end,” he said. “You get a sense of fulfillment. It’s a physical job. You always have to be thinking in the future. It keeps your brain active and your body active. And people love honey.”
Over the years, Ryder has become more than a boss to Montgomery. He views his boss as a mentor, and he takes his role in that seriously. On the side, he bought four hives of his own last year. This year, that number has grown to 23.
“In the spring, we can take established strong hives and make splits off them to create another hive,” Montgomery explained. “For a somewhat small investment, you can increase your numbers if you have strong hives. You can just buy a queen.”
Buying a queen isn’t a matter of running to the ag supply store, though. They have to be ordered, often from warmer climate states like Hawaii, California and Georgia. Once she arrives, in an enclosure, surrounded by attendants, it takes several days for the new hive to adapt to her smell before she can be released and complete the process. Montgomery says even with his years around the apiary, he is still learning from these insects every day.
Read the full story and meet the other makers in the December issue or click here.