Many people have asked us over the years how we became interested in grapes and honeybees and what they have to do with each other. The grapes do not need the honeybees for pollination. They are two totally separate interests - And the candles came later. This is more of the story...
Shortly after Pat & I got married (more than 30 years ago) we decided to take a winemaking class at a local school at night. (Pat's class in something else got cancelled so she joined mine). It was a very interesting class. The instructor, Al Schneider, was very interested in what he was teaching. In fact he grew grapes, made wine & showed up at our farm every year to purchase raw honey, unfortunately, Al passed away a few years ago.
We had a lot of fun! Many nights I would go to the store and purchase bottles of wine for dinner, but before drinking them I would test each for acidity, sugar and make many notes about them. I learned a lot from some of these early vintage labels (boonesfarm, ripple, etc).
As our tastes progressed we became very interested in the new grape varieties that were being grown in Michigan - such as the french hybrids. We did a lot of reading, joined the American Wine Society, became a local winemaking chapter chairman, etc. Soon we had a few vines growing in the back yard of our small house in Clawson, Michigan.
A few years, and two children later, we purchased a 2 acre lot in Troy, Michigan and decided to become farmers. We planted 22 - 150 foot rows of grapes (about 2/3 acre). We really did not know how much wine this would produce (about 400-500 gallons).
When we were starting to grow them, I sold a few bushels of pears from some trees that we had in the back of the property. THE LIGHT BULB WENT ON - PEOPLE ARE PAYING ME MONEY FOR THIS STUFF! - I was now hooked on growing and selling produce. We sold grapes from our small farm for many years and became very interested in U-PICK.
This was also the time that I met Karl Bailey. Karl Bailey was a retired Extension Agent from the University of Michigan. He was in his 80's & I was in my 30's and he became sort of a mentor to me. (I have found over the years that he encouraged many other people to get into agriculture) Karl owned & operated "Bailey Vineyard" in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. He grew many new varieties of grapes, apples and other fruit. Our vineyard (now in Dryden) is very similar to the experimental style that Karl had. Bailey Vineyard is now a subdivision called "Bailey Vineyard". Karl also had some honeybees, although that was not my main interest at the time.
As crazy ideas go we decided to become larger in this grape growing venture. In 1983 we were looking for property to grow grapes on. Pat kiddingly said she wanted lakefront property. I knew we could not afford that along with some acreage for the grapes ... but as fate would have it another friend that was interested in grape growing had some property available in Dryden. AND IT WAS ON A 3 ACRE POND! How could any sane person resist!
I started planning and propagating grape vines for our new vineyard. Many cuttings were taken from Karl Bailey's vines. Many vines were purchased from various nurseries. Our original plan was to have all the table grapes in one area, white wine in another. Over the years many rows were added and a few varieties were removed - It sometimes helps to have a map of the vineyard to find where I have hidden all these exciting varieties.
We started keeping honeybees while we were in Troy. After watching Karl & his bees, and a brother in law with bees I started doing a little research. It finally dawned on me that you did not need massive amounts of property or equipment to become a beekeeper. You also could have as large an operation as you wanted since you can have "outyards" (colonies of bees at remote sites) all over the place. This seemed to appeal to my new founded "farmer" instinct and another LIGHT BULB WENT ON - PEOPLE WILL PAY ME MONEY FOR THIS STUFF (honey)! I was again hooked! I find out later that this is a common thing with new beekeepers.
During most of our beekeeping career we have operated from 125 to 200 colonies, usually in about 10+ different locations all within 60 minutes of our farm.
We sell honey at many roadside markets, cider mills, grocery stores, health food stores and now also on the internet.
We developed different fruit honey creamed spreads (our main ones now are cinnamon creamed and apricot creamed) that are very popular.
During the Holiday season we have used our creamed honey along with beeswax candles in many gift boxes that we sold to individuals and to businesses.
The Website & CandleShop
Starting in 2000 we developed our website and that is a ongoing continuous adventure and learning experience. A nephew of mine (a computer whiz kid) kept telling me we should sell candles on the internet. I am an old "paper" guy that is used to printing things for promotion. Anyway - he was right- and I found that our website is the perfect way to get information to our customers about our vineyard. I originally thought the best use of our website was only for local winemakers but I soon found out that people all over the country were asking about our candles.
See you at the farm - in September or any time of the year at www.honeyflowfarm.com.
Bill & Pat Schnute
I use Joomla to build this website and I do all of our own work - The Candleshop E-Commerce program we use is Quikstore 3.0. Any comments or suggestions are very welcome.