We’re thrilled to report that our first 10 beehives are installed. We have a system in place to monitor the bees and expand the hives to accommodate the healthy, growing population. The bees have settled in well and we’ve watched them forage for lavender pollen to carry back to the hives. They’ve already started producing honey!
Our crew, which before now had limited or no apiary experience, are doing a great job learning the ropes and working with the bees. So far, we’ve had no “swarming” and there have been only a few bee stings (and no allergic reactions). And while we have had a few bear sightings, none of them has gotten past our electric fence to sample the honey.
Beekeeper Eric Grandon tells us that over the past 30 years, the protein content of pollen has declined dramatically and bees often struggle to get the nutrition they need to thrive. We are fortunate that our bees can find plenty of nutritious pollen in the surrounding lavender fields.
We expect that our bees will collect more pollen than they need – which should leave us with extra pollen to sell to other beekeepers and to health food stores. Along with the bee pollen, we’ll have raw lavender honey available for sale by sometime this fall. Please contact us to learn more about purchasing any of these products.
While our lavender plants have been fast asleep in the fields, we’ve been hard at work getting ready for the new season.
Thousands of new lavender plants that started out this winter as tiny cuttings in our greenhouse and high tunnel will be ready for planting next month. Propagation is going well and this initiative should help us meet our goal of planting 80,000 new plants this year.
Through the winter and early spring, our crews have weeded, built rock walls, and improved drainage. We’ve cleared additional acres and used a bulldozer to build the windrows (mounds) where we’ll starting planting the lavender in mid-May. Under the guidance of beekeeper Eric Grandon, we’re installing 10 beehives, which will be great for the bees and for our lavender.
Meanwhile, the plants that we planted last year are starting to wake up and they are looking good – even the plants that the deer nibbled when they got really hungry this winter (normally deer don’t like to eat lavender).
We are grateful for our workers who have been able to keep working this spring, and we are employing good social distancing, cleaning and disinfecting practices.
And while we are unsure of COVID-19’s impact on where we will be selling our essential oils and hydrosols this year, we do know that we will have products for sale—so stay tuned for more information on where and how you can buy them!
The R2WIB and ABCo each focus on to reducing or eliminating the barriers to economic development and barriers that separate skilled and unskilled workers.
The partnership began last summer when the R2WIB hosted job fairs in Logan and Nellis. ABCo staff interviewed people and soon hired them to work at its Ashford lavender operation. Several ABCo employees are now enrolled in the R2WIB’s Youth On-the-Job Training Program, which offers important job skills and life skills training (along with financial incentives to participate).
Being able to keep a job is just as important as getting one in the first place. Through the R2WIB, ABCo has leveraged additional resources to support employees who are facing financial and other challenges that can sometimes make it hard to keep and succeed in a job.
Financial support from the R2WIB enabled ABCo to keep employees on the payroll beyond the end of the growing season, which will help us get a bigger jump on the 2020 season.
According to ABCo President Jocelyn Sheppard, the engraved mantel clock will serve as a reminder of what the company accomplished in 2019—and an inspiration for hiring more Southern West Virginia workers in 2020.
Appalachian Botanical Company was recognized for its efforts to put Southern West Virginians back to work. The large majority of ABCo workers live in Boone County, with the rest coming from Fayette County and Raleigh County.
In accepting the award, ABCo President Jocelyn Sheppard offered thanks for the help and support received throughout this first year of operation. Early partners and collaborators include the Region II Workforce Investment Board, Synergy Health, PSIMED, Inc., and Penn Virginia Operating Co., LLC. Jocelyn also highlighted two individuals for their crucial contributions to the company: Manager Christina Jeffries and Partner/Investor Terry Rusin.
Read more about the other Power of Performance winners who are making a difference in Southern WV at WVhub.org