Rick Drutchas came to Vermont in the early 70's, where he first learned to keep hives from an old time neighbor in Rutland. He grew up in Detroit, where he was rejected by the draft for being allergic to bees, was a roadie for the MC5 and trucked food for the burgeoning food coop scene. Eventually, with the help of his Mom, 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 and his german shepard, Max, trained to sniff out american foulbrood in apiaries, inspected hives together for many years. Blessed with taking over the apiaries of another old-time beekeeper on the Champlain Islands, Rick built his operation to 700 hives and accounts across the state. Still entranced with bees and in awe of their mysteries, 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 and he's unable to stop keeping bees.
Genevieve came to Worcester, Vermont from her home state of Minnesota in the early 90's. She co-founded Green River Guild in Hyde Park, Vermont, where she specialized in work with children and adolescents as a psychotherapist for 15 years. She joined up with Rick in 2008, bringing her love of gardening, herbs and hearth keeping to Bee Haven. She now counts herself a grateful hermit, growing organic herbs, fruits and vegetables, making natural and medicinal body and soul-loving products, grafting queen bees and supporting healthy hives. She sometimes still wonders how she ever got involved in beekeeping and then remembers that life is strange and magical.
In 2010, Bee Haven made its first big downshift when all the Champlain Islands apiaries and the retail accounts were sold to a younger bee operation out of Troy, Vermont. We retained a handful of favorite apiaries in locations blessed by beautiful and fragrant basswood groves, with understories of honeysuckle and blackberry bramble, along with some sweet-smelling black locust stands. We devised a new model of operation - to sell high quality bulk buckets of real raw and unfiltered honey from our own farm. It felt like the right thing to do in the face of the tremendous changes agriculture, bees and beekeeping were facing. As more and more of Vermont's dairy farms call it quits we've watched our sweet agricultural lands go the way of large scale gmo corn operations and development, quickly diminishing the pastures that held the nectar gold for so many generations of Vermont bees and beekeepers. We're grateful for our dozen remaining hiveyards stashed in out of the way, sweet and untended places, that remind us if how it used to be.
So, nowadays we tend between 100-150 hives and a large garden of food and medicinals 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 practices.
We think it's important to thank, honor and remember teachers, colleagues and past partners of Bee Haven: Michelle Beebe, Louis Harbin of Alabama, Kirk Jones of Michigan, "he turned me on to the forklift", Ed and Ethel Hazen and Charles Ferree from 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. i'd be ready to quit and she'd say, 'let's go do another yard ", 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, over the years, Bee Haven has been assisted by Ben Goodrich, Biljer, Dan Staples and Aaron Alexander, who showed up to learn or just work when it was needed. We're grateful for this. We feel privileged to be a part of Vermont's remarkable beekeeping history and grateful for living the life we have.