One young Homewood couple turned their penchant for gardening into one sweet adventure.
For George and Brittany Stegall, beekeeping was never really part of the plan. It all started while trying to develop a garden in their backyard. After one successful year, they started having trouble growing tomatoes. George also realized they didn’t have the space needed to cultivate the garden of his dreams. “I always had this romantic thought of farming, but I can’t do that in Homewood,” he explains. “But beekeeping is a similar thing, and you can do that in a much smaller space.”
After first getting the approval of Brittany—who pleasantly surprised George with loving the idea—George signed them up for a beekeeping class, purchased two hives from a local beekeeper, and got to work. Soon, the Edgewood Bee Company was born. “We never anticipated that we would sell the honey; we really just wanted it for ourselves,” George says. “But we were gathering more honey than we needed, so we started giving it away to friends and family. Then it just naturally grew from there.”
While it remains just a hobby for the couple, George would like to eventually grow their beekeeping to 10 hives. In the meantime, he’s content with enjoying the sweet substance, whether it’s a dollop in his morning coffee or drizzled over baked Brie. “I’m hoping to encourage others to keep bees, too,” he says. “One of our neighbors now keeps them after she saw us having so much fun with it.”
FOR THE BEES
Honey bees seek out the nearest floral source to gather nectar and pollen, but they aren’t attracted to just any flowering plant. Bees actually prefer flowers of certain colors—yellow, blue, purple, and sometimes white—as well as flowers with light scents, according to Sallie Lee, extension agent for the Alabama Cooperative Extension and the beekeeper who maintains the hives at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. “Blooms also have to be a certain size because if it’s too big, the bee can’t get in far enough to get the nectar,” Sallie adds. Three good floral sources that bees tend to go for are flowering herbs, goldenrod, and aster.
A good energy source, local honey can help alleviate allergy problems, according to some research. “Honey bees collect pollen and nectar from local flowers. If you eat their honey, you are building up immunity to the allergens that irritate your system,” says Sallie Lee, extension agent for the Alabama Cooperative Extension.
While it may seem daunting, beekeeping is actually easy to start and manage, George says. “My best advice is to let YouTube be your best friend,” he says. “Watch videos about it and that will break down the barriers so that you won’t be scared of the bees.” George also recommends joining your local beekeepers association, such as the Jefferson County Beekeepers Association (jeffcobees.org), as well as checking out beesource.com, an online forum for helpful tips and advice. Typically, honey is harvested twice a year: the largest harvest takes place around the Fourth of July and a smaller harvest is in late September or early October. George and Brittany’s bee hive sits just about 10 feet from their back door. Every year, they harvest enough honey to produce about 500 to 1,000 jars, which they jar themselves. The Stegalls also make lip balm and beeswax candles.
Baked Brie with Edgewood Bee Company Honey
1 package pillsbury crescent rolls
1 triangle French Brie
Edgewood Bee Company honey
1. Lay one half of the crescent roll dough flat on greased baking sheet. Cut Brie into medium-sized chunks, and place in a pile on center of dough. Lay other half of crescent roll dough over the Brie, and seal up all sides by pinching dough to encapsulate.
2. Bake at 350 degrees for 9 to 13 minutes (or according to the baking instructions on the crescent rolls package).
3. Take out of oven and drizzle or douse with honey. Serve as an appetizer or snack with or without crackers.
Apple with Cheese & Edgewood Bee Company Honey
Slice a green apple. Top with a slice of Manchego cheese. Drizzle with honey.