Rick Drutchas came to Vermont in the early 70's, where he first learned to keep hives from an old-timer neighbor in Rutland. A few years later he purchased the old Norton Dairy Farm south of Worcester village, giving Bee Haven Honey Farm its permanent home on the North Branch of the Winooski River. He went on to serve as the Vermont State Apiarist for over a decade. He trained his german shepard, Max, to sniff out american foulbrood in the apiaries they inspected. Blessed to take over the apiaries of another old-time beekeeper on the Champlain Islands, Rick went on to build Bee Haven up to 700 hives and commercial accounts at coops, health food and speciality Vermont food stores across the state. Still entranced with bees and in awe of their mysteries today, we run a different kind of commercial beekeeping enterprise these days. Rick is now most concerned with the changing worlds' affect on bees and beekeeping, as environmental issues, climate change and the varroa mite continue to radically impact the sweet canaries in the coal mine that honeybees are.
Genevieve moved to Worcester, Vermont from her home state of Minnesota in the early 90's. She co-founded Green River Guild, a psychotherapy group practice in Hyde Park, Vermont, where she specialized in work with children and adolescents for 15 years. She joined Rick in 2008, bringing her love of gardening, herbs and hearth-keeping to Bee Haven. Now a grateful hermit, she grows organic herbs, fruits and vegetables, makes natural and medicinal products, grafts queen bees for the Bee Haven hives and handles sales and customer relations.
In 2010 Bee Haven made a big downshift, selling the Champlain Islands apiaries and all of its retail accounts to a younger bee operation out of Troy, Vermont. We retained a handful of favorite apiaries further south along Lake Champlain in Chittenden County, blessed with beautiful, fragrant basswood groves, understories of honeysuckle and blackberry bramble and some sweet-smelling black locust stands. It felt like the right thing to do in the face of the tremendous changes agriculture, bees and beekeeping have seen and continue to face. As more and more of Vermont's dairy farms have had to call it quits, our sweetest agricultural lands have gone the way of large scale gmo corn operations and development. Our Vermont bees have lost much of the beautiful, clean forage pastures our state was so known for in dairy farm-dominant past. The older ways of those days meant big open fields on the plentiful dairy farms, filled with seasonally changing wildflowers and other forage plants that provided our bees, as well as our state’s pasture-feeding cows, a beautiful spectrum of nectars and plant nutrients that simply can’t be rivaled today. It’s with sadness we salute the loss of this integral part of our state’s farming and beekeeping histories. We recall these more sustainable times in the past with love in our hearts and we acknowledge our human responsibility for the changes we’ve made to the green spirits of Vermont’s land and the impacts we’ve wrought on all the creatures of these lands.
Nowadays we tend 100-150 hives and a large garden of food and medicinal plants and we wild-craft from the woods. We utilize the European Union's Organic Beekeeping Protocol in our hives, which means we DO treat for varroa mite, using plant-based formic and oxalic acids and essential oils, along with selective breeding through our queen-rearing practice. We’re grateful for the few and out of the way places our honey production apiaries occupy now.
We think it's important to honor and remember the teachers, colleagues and past partners that have enriched or made Bee Haven possible: Louis Harbin of Alabama, Kirk Jones of Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Apiaries and St. Ambrose Cellars, "he turned me on to the forklift", Ed and Ethel Hazen and Charles Ferree of the Champlain Islands, Roger Jones, Charlie Mraz, "he got me to finally read C.C. Miller's 'Fifty Years Among the Bees", Susan Dusmore, "she worked harder then anyone else i've ever worked with", Mike Palmer, Peter Genier, Dr. Roger Morse, Arnold Waters, the great comb honey maker, and finally, Dick Brigham, Bob Mead and Bill Matson, the state's previous apiary inspectors - a whole lot of generosity and gifts in these folks. Additionally, we’ve been assisted over the years by Ben Goodrich, Biljer, Dan Staples, Aaron Alexander, and Kyle Cheney, who’ve showed up for the hard work when it was needed. We feel privileged to be a part of Vermont's remarkable beekeeping history and grateful for having the life we live.