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Grampa's Story

Brent Edelen

The Beekeeper - Brent Edelen

Brent, aka Shaggy, is the beekeeper. He is Grampa’s grandson. Brent lives in Alamosa, CO with his family and devotes his full time to taking care of his 600 or so colonies of bees.

If you have any questions about the honey or beekeeping in general, feel free to email Brent

Grampa's Story

by Brent Edelen

I am a sixth generation beekeeper and a fourth generation domestic beekeeper.

My great grandfather, Edward Haefeli, passed through Elis Island around the turn of the former century. On his way from Switzerland, he had come to America to seek work and medical help for Tuberculosis. He made his way to Illinois, where he had family, but found the high humidity of the area aggravated his T.B. He continued West towards California. While crossing the Rockies he found the high dry mountain air helped this condition considerably. He eventually settled in the San Luis Valley (7,600ft altitude) As was custom in those days, great gramps farmed a living for his family and anything extra was sold or traded with in the community. They settled on a nice piece of river bottom next to the Rio Grande. Along with all of the vegetables the farm also had a large apple orchard. Having had experience in Switzerland with honey bees, great grampa naturally started a few colonies of bees at the farm to help with pollination, particularly the apples. He was quite impressed and surprised at the end of the first honey season. The bees had made an extraordinary amount of honey. Much more than the family could use. So it was traded and sold with great appreciation from neighbors and friends.. The next few years Edward increased his bee hive numbers to accommodate more demand for the light sweet natural liquid gold.

It wasn’t long until the bees were occupying most of his time. As mechanized farming practices slowly came to light, farmers became more specialized in what they were best at growing. For gramps it was honey. It was easy for him to produce large honey crops and trade for what the family needed with honey. Thus the first “commercial” beekeeper of the family came to be.

Grampa's Seasonal Honey LabelThe label on our “seasonal” honey is my great grandfather on his horse and buggy (he refused to drive a car his whole life) and my mother at age 3.
 

My grandfather, John Haefeli, Edward’s son, naturally grew up helping his dad with the bees. Out of the children in the family he was only one that stayed with business. John was a teenager during the Great Depression. He was as hard of a worker as his dad, and as younger generation tend to do, he was dreaming big dreams about the family honey business. He grew the business by building beehives and expanding the numbers of bees. While the depression had virtually crushed the American economy, commodities such as coffee, flour, sugar, and honey, still held their own in the market place. Grandpa bought his first delivery truck to deliver honey.

grampa-scloverhoneylabel.png
The label we use on our clover honey is my grandfather
with his new delivery truck.

And since John was now one of the largest producers of beeswax in the country, he would not be shipped off to war but would be require to step up production of beeswax for the war effort. So, the business continued to grow. At one point John was the largest beekeeper in the U.S. maintaining some 12,000+ beehives, with four different honey processing plants in three states, and fleet of trucks, and slew of workers.

grampawithtruck.jpgGrampa (John) with his first delivery truck.

 

John Haefeli died in 1976. His three children, John Jr, Jay Douglas, Pat (my mother), all grew up in the business. But, really it was only John Jr, that expressed interest in running it. I spent all of my summers as a kid at the honey farm. I despised the hard work of beekeeping, particularly the getting stung part. So I decided to go to college, as my mother had done, and leave the hard work behind. After college and a short career in an office, I realized how much I missed working outdoors and how much I loved producing something special. I went back to work for my uncle, John Jr. Working for family is never easy and so I bought 150 colonies of bees and started out on my own.

grampagoingtoca.jpgGrampa (John) with bees. Going to California for orange honey.

 

I currently have about 500 beehives and often wonder how my recent ancestors were able to manage such large numbers of hives. Times change and as we all know now, bigger isn’t always better. I am able to watch over the bees and produce several rare raw honeys, and in honor of my great grandpa, grandpa we call them Grampa’s Gourmet.