Blount County beekeeper's farm produces locally-made honey

Blount County beekeeper's farm produces locally-made honey

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Charlie Parton, Tennessee's 2011 Beekeeper of the year, has been dabbling with honey bees and honey for more than 30 years. Charlie Parton, Tennessee's 2011 Beekeeper of the year, has been dabbling with honey bees and honey for more than 30 years.
The facility produces, on average, 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of honey a year. The facility produces, on average, 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of honey a year.
Bees are needed not just because of the honey. Bees are responsible for pollinating many of the plants we eat. Bees are needed not just because of the honey. Bees are responsible for pollinating many of the plants we eat.

By GENE PATTERSON
6 News Anchor/Reporter

LOUISVILLE (WATE) - It's said that one out of every third bite you take is the result of a honey bee. One reason is their gathering of nectar and is commonly called pollination. Without pollination, many plants would not survive.

The other reason is honey.

At the Parton farm in Blount County, Charlie Parton, Tennessee's 2011 Beekeeper of the year, has been dabbling with honey bees and honey for more than 30 years.

"My father-in-law got some bees, and it was just fascinating to me, so it whetted my appetite," said Parton.

He began with just two colonies which produced just a little bit of honey.

Today, he has many more colonies and an extraction facility that is the envy of beekeepers everywhere. The facility produces, on average, 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of honey a year.

"I remember selling honey for three dollars a quart, so that's a big change," said Parton. "I've been trying my best to produce some all that time. Retail for me is [now] $13 dollars a quart."

Parton's honey is predominantly a clover and wild flower honey,which explains its light color and mild taste. This year, his crop is about half that of a normal year. Parton blames that on the rain.

"If I had all these tanks full, which I didn't this year, I could sell every drop," he explained.

However, Parton and other beekeepers are facing bigger problems than just too much rain. Colony collapse syndrome is dramatically reducing the number of honey bees in this country.

Parasites are invading colonies and wiping them out, making the job of beekeeping difficult and for some, impossible.

"That's a big challenge we have. When we have new beekeepers, keeping them encouraged because they're going to have losses and they're going to have problems, but we tell them to hang in there. We need the bees," said Parton.

Bees are needed not just because of the honey. Bees are responsible for pollinating many of the plants we eat. Without bees, our dinner table would be a lot less interesting. 

Despite the often hot and sometimes painful job due to stings, Charlie Parton says he will continue to work his colonies and make his honey.

He says it's not so much for the money, but for the love of beekeeping.

"We don't get enough for it for what we do, but we love beekeeping, so we do it and it kind of supplements us."

That love produces that sweet taste of pure honey, made in Tennessee.

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