“I was just amazed,” White said. Soon after, he acquired 20 colonies of his own to care for.
After decades of being a physical education teacher and swim coach, White began to expand his interest in bees and gathered more apiaries, or collections of beehives.
Today, White has 70 apiaries with hundreds of thousands of bees throughout the Middle Tennessee region, including hives at Beech Creek Farm, Autumn Crest Farm, Mint Springs Farm and even his neighbor’s backyard. He is also a member of the Tennessee Beekeepers Association and teaches classes to aspiring beekeepers.
While White sells pollen by the pound and offers bee colonies for those who want to establish their own apiaries, he said his top-selling product is definitely honey. The honey can be purchased at stores and restaurants throughout the area or through White directly. •“This year in Tennessee was a very good year for honey production,” said White, who bottled more than 1,500 pounds of honey to sell in 2019.
Despite last year’s high level of honey production, White said he is still concerned about bees dying off, which he attributes more to mites infesting his colonies than to changes in the weather or the use of pesticides.
“It’s getting worse; it’s not getting better,” White said. “You can have a hive that’s perfectly strong and come back in three weeks and it’s just gone. It’s terrible. About three years ago, in the state of Tennessee, about 70% of the bees died, and I lost about 50%. I have some friends who lost all of their bees.”
While White said he makes money through his honey sales, he is most motivated by a desire to save the bees from dying.
“The bees, to me, are everything,” White said. “I make a little money out of it, but it’s about keeping the bees alive more than anything.”
Joel White Apiaries
4856 Manassas Drive, Brentwood
Hours by appointment only