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A Short History of Stockin’s Apiaries
Written by owner, Gary Stockin
Since I was a boy on the family dairy farm, I have always loved honey. As a child, I wondered how people could get honey from bees. I looked for honey and even found a bee hive in a tree, and was able to cut a section of comb honey out by tying my hunting knife onto a long pole and poking it around in the hive. Later a man cutting lumber in our woods found two bee trees and had two big tin pails full of honey combs. That looked like gold to me and my desire to have bees someday was cemented in my mind. At that age, however, I never thought of the possibility of keeping bees as a business. Years passed, and as a young adult, when I heard of people having honeybees in the walls of their houses, I jumped at the chance to get them and transfer them to old, empty bee boxes which had been given to me by a man known as “Grandpa” Broughton in Morris, PA.
In 1975, my friends introduced me to Robert C. Herr, who had owned Herr’s Fruit Farm in Millersville, Pennsylvania. “Grandpa” Herr was happy to pass on his interest in beekeeping to me, while we were living near New Milford, PA. I bought enough equipment to start a few hives and enough to sell, so that very briefly I was a dealer for Dadant and Sons. It was then that I adopted the name of Stockin’s Apiaries. It gave me a little discount but ended as quickly as it started. When my wife and I and our family were transitioning to Lancaster County, I began to help Grandpa Herr take care of his hives and he in turn helped me learn to keep bees as an occupation, rather than just as a hobby. The opportunity to take over his bee operation around 1985 was thrilling for me. I kept bees alongside my other work for several years, waiting and praying about the day when I could begin to do this full time.
The time came in 1992 when I felt that I should start out full time on my own. Being a farmer at heart, I loved the job of working with bees. It was and is hard work, but it is fascinating to take care of these little creatures. They are indeed, designed by our Creator, God. Today, Stockin’s Apiaries is no longer just me keeping bees, but it has grown into our small business with at times having the whole family involved in building bee equipment, taking honey off, extracting, bottling and labeling honey, rendering wax, and sometimes moving bees into and out of orchards for pollination. Presently I am a “Grandpa” beekeeper.
Through my years of beekeeping, I have kept approximately 200-300 beehives. Since our bees are moved from one place to another, one will not find an “apiary” of bees established on our own property. For the winter I sometimes have taken them to Florida so that they could keep active and busy. After the orange blossoms are finished, they come back north in time for apple blossoms and for early spring blooms of dandelion, wild cherry, locust and clover. Also, they may be out working to pollinate pumpkins, strawberries or other plants. After these, the bees are often moved further to Northern Pennsylvania or New York for sweet clover, locust, blackberry, tulip poplar, goldenrod and other wildflowers.
Since the demand for good raw honey has increased, Stockin’s Apiaries has needed much more honey than we’ve been able to produce from our own bees. We are thankful for many markets in Lancaster County, as well as many faithful customers who come from great distances for our honey. In response, we have purchased honey from friends and other reputable beekeepers in order to supply customers. We like to buy as “locally” as is possible, but we have begun to get alfalfa raw honey from Canada and buckwheat raw honey from Washington State.
For me, beekeeping and making our customers happy by supplying good honey, has been something I love. I give the credit to the Lord for sustaining my family with this work. It is a blessing to me to be surrounded by family members and other employees who each one, with his or her own abilities, fill an important role for Stockin’s Apiaries.