5th Generation Family-Owned Business
2J Farms was created on December 24, 2007. It was two entities, 2J Honey Farms,LLC and 2J Lowline Cattle Co. LLC. Previously, we worked at Miller’s Honey Farms, Inc. a fourth generation family business run by my father and brother. When our fourth daughter, a beekeeper in her own right, married, our new son-in-law and I decided to branch off on our own. What an adventure. We ran bees in SD after two years of poor results in ID. We then found a great outfit in northwestern ND for sale and purchased it from Dave Nelson, a friend of my Father, and former manager for the Jim Powers Honey Co.
We have pollinated almonds in CA. with Pat Heitkam in Chico. He is a famous queen breeder who we have purchased queens from for over twenty years. We have worked in the Modesto area for the last five years working both sides of Highway 99. This year, we placed some bees in the Chowchilla, CA area where the land is flat, the orchards are large, and farm roads are paved.
We try to get the bees to ND onto the apiary sight and supered before June 20th. We extract the honey in Blackfoot, ID. Our goal is to have the honey pulled, the mite treatments on, and the bees headed back to ID before September 1st each year. There we hope to catch the tail end of the rabbit brush pollen flow.
We have added a service of storing bees. A typical double Belehn potato cellar can store 10,000 hives of bees. We stack the hives of bees six pallets high for maximum space allocation and good air flow. Since we can fill less than half, we store bees for other commercial beekeepers from as far away as Kansas. This allows us to use the ventilation system most efficiently for hive health and to help pay the rent. The bees go in the middle of November and begin shipping to the almonds around January 7th. We have made some good friends and allies with this activity, often helping each other out during the rush to almond pollination.
Cellar storage keeps the hives out of the weather during the normally two wettest months of the year in CA. The bees avoid theft and vandalism. This period of time allows the hive to go through a quiet period allowing the young bees to mature and build fat stores that will be called upon to raise more young bees at the start of almond bloom. Bees that go to CA miss out on this quiet period and are labeled six week bees due to that being their typical life span versus cellar bees that can live up to four months due to their resting environment.
After release from the almonds in mid-March we make our divides in CA. Splitting up bees, brood and honey in what we hope will be a 2.5 way divide. We place a queen cell into this small nuc of the parent and replenish all of the empty boxes created during the year as one hive after the other fails for all the reasons that bees die these days.
And this is how we spend our lives.
- Jay Miller