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Farm couple takes up beekeeping to develop a niche market

Farm couple takes up beekeeping to develop a niche market
Interest in bees turns into source of income for this Indiana farm couple.

One weekend in 2012, Nolan and Kelsey Sampson were brainstorming ideas for something they might do as a hobby and possibly also make a little money. After a class in Indianapolis and reading a few books, they started Sampson's Liquid Gold, a niche beekeeping business in LaPorte, Ind. 

"More than 95% of beekeepers are hobbyists, and that's the same way in Indiana," says Greg Hunt, professor, behavioral geneticist and honeybee specialist at Purdue University.

Bees galore: More farmers are adding honeybees as a niche enterprise to add extra income. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Sampson's Liquid Gold has buzzed with growth ever since the Sampson's first purchased hives. They now sell honey and wax products such as lip balm, and are looking to expand to candles. They have tapped a niche market that complements their farming operation.

"We are trying to go with a local market," Sampson says. "People want local, all-natural products."

The Sampsons also manage hives for others in their area. Sampson's Liquid Gold consists of 15 hives. During the middle of the season, each hive can hold 60,000 to 80,000 bees.

The bees in these hives that produce the "liquid gold" are honeybees. Hunt explains honeybees are different from the rest of the 400 species of bees that live in Indiana because they are social instead of solitary.

"The importance of the industry is only going to go up because the human population is going up and demand for those foods are going to keep going up," Sampson says.

The Sampsons strive to help the environment through beekeeping. They hope to help it with each jar of honey sold across the country. Nolan Sampson says the bee population is declining and they want to be a part of the solution to keep honeybees healthy.

Nolan and Kelsey Sampson started Sampson's Liquid Gold, a niche beekeeping business in LaPorte, Ind., in 2012.

"We want to make people aware of bee health," Sampson says. "There are a lot of people who don't know much or anything about honeybees."

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They make it a priority to teach as many people about their operation and the honeybee industry as possible. Sampson and Hunt also remind farmers that bees are in close proximity to farms. The Sampsons are also willing to help others start their own beekeeping operation.

The future looks bright for Sampson's Liquid Gold, but there may also be a bit of adventure to come. The bees are a supplement to the Sampsons' full-time jobs in the agriculture industry and raising freezer beef.

The Sampsons ship honey from coast to coast to cater to their local, naturally produced niche market. They hope to double their sales every year, and have accomplished that to date, but are also looking at ways to be more efficient with their time. Sampson thinks it will be interesting to see if there will be more start-ups in the future or if the bee industry will consolidate further.

With researchers, like Hunt, and the passion Sampson's Liquid Gold has for the beekeeping industry, the future of the beekeeping industry is bright.

Harsh is a senior in ag communications at Purdue University

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