The Life and Times of Jim Withers
( . . . just as I received it)
You want my bio, huh? Well, let me see . . . I like snuggling by a cozy fireplace, candlelight dinners, and long walks on the beach . . . Wait! You might be talking about my beekeeping bio. Okay.
I retired at the age of 50 from General Motors. Too young to quit working, and too stubborn to work for anyone else, I began looking for a hobby that paid. I was an amateur mountain bike racer at the time and used a lot of local honey as an energy replacement source on long training rides. I had the thought one day that, if I had my own beehive, I could produce my own honey for that purpose. The rest, as they say, is history. That includes the bike racing . . . I don’t have time for it anymore.
I’ve been keeping bees for 6 years. I became president of our local beekeeping club during my 3rd year of beekeeping which really helped to increase my beekeeping knowledge. Because I had to do presentations on beekeeping once a month, I really felt obligated to dig into the research. I read a lot of beekeeping books anyway, but, like I said, feeling the pressure to know the answers really made me dig in. I’m sure you experience much the same thing, Rusty.
I began with 6 colonies that first year. About mid summer I tried a couple of walkaway splits that were quite successful and was amazed by the magic of it all. I’ve been hooked ever since.
By the third year I was up to 50 colonies and began grafting and raising my own queens.
This year I have about 140 colonies that live on several orchards and farms around Genesee County, Michigan.
We have several locations that buy our honey for resale and, of course, sell it out our front door as well.
My lovely wife of nearly 34 years, Lee, and I enjoy this very much because we get to meet so many new friends that become our regular customers.
I do several presentations on various aspects of beekeeping each year now throughout several counties here in lower Michigan. One of my favorites is a monthly gig I have at a local venue called For Mar Nature Preserve where I teach a honeybee kids class.
I don’t see growing my hive count too much larger. Maybe up to about 200. I don’t foresee getting into the commercial pollination business that requires transporting hives all over the place. Most of my colonies do pollination for small to medium size orchards and farms. They get free pollination and my hives have permanent homes. I sell much of the honey produced there back to them at wholesale which they, in turn, sell at their cider mills and farm markets. These are wonderful relationships which I highly recommend to anyone wanting to be a sideline beekeeper.
There you have it, Rusty. Again, chop it up anyway you like. Just make sure I come out looking like a hero!
Withers Mountain Honey Farm