Patrick and Kelly Edwards
Founding Members of
Benton County Beekeepers
NWA Beekeepers, Carroll County Beekeepers, and Arkansas Beekeepers Association
Patrick and Kelly Edwards began beekeeping after a bad surgery for Kelly led the pair to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. A more organic and chemical free lifestyle was recommended with honey and more vegetables. A visit to an area beekeeper and just a little talk was all it took. The beekeeping itch had taken hold. Patrick was hooked, but Kelly wanted more information. How hard was beekeeping? What laws did we have to abide by? What was the cost? What were the benefits and the draw backs of beekeeping? Where do we get bees? And so many more questions… Soon, the itch got ahold of Kelly as well.
The first year was tough, as we knew no local beekeepers. Only a few that lived a ways away. There were no mentors around, so books were our guides. Our only suppliers were internet based, as we had no local bee supply stores. We started in late July so we had to feed our bees continuously. We made it thru the hardest part of the winter, only to lose our bees, which were weaker, to robbing. We cried. The second year came and we found a beekeeper that had 1 large hive about a hundred miles away that was getting out of it due to personal reasons. We bought his hive and took it home in the last snow of the year, with tape over the entrance and sitting in the seat next to my son in the back of the minivan. He was not just a little nervous. Every bump we hit, he’d say, “Dad… I can hear them buzzing…” We made it home. The second year we did find that there was a bee club in Fayetteville, Northwest Arkansas Beekeepers. We joined even though the Monday night meetings meant 130 mile round trip in terrible rush hour traffic. We took a beginner bee class with Jon Zawislak, the Arkansas State Apiculturist. We later joined the Arkansas Beekeepers Association, a group set up to attempt to bring all beekeeping clubs across Arkansas together.
Over the next years, we bought more bees. We caught swarms. We made splits. We put an ad on Craigslist to remove bees and swarms. We mentored. We met other local beekeepers, and when we asked about starting a local club, everyone kept saying that they were thinking about it, but never got it started. We decided it was time to start one. We started Benton County Beekeepers in Pea Ridge, Arkansas, along with Charlie Brewer, Shannon & Jennifer Ivy, Elizabeth McCurran, and Joe LaRoche and others. Kelly and I researched and got the paperwork started and completed, and filed the state and federal required documents. I was also nominated and voted in to stand as Northwest Regional Director of the Arkansas Beekeepers Association.
At the same time, we decided to start selling a few bee supplies. We had made our own bottoms and boxes and a few of the miscellaneous pieces and parts, but when you needed a specific item and needed it NOW, we didn’t have a local supplier. The only 3 stores were Tulsa (2 ½ hours), Russellville (2 ½ hours) or Nixa (1 hour 40 minutes). We had a big barn, so when tax time came around, we poured a concrete floor, built walls and started a store. We carried the basics, but without being able to buy in bulk, the big discounts were not achievable. Our name came from a play on what our friends referred to us as, PREPPERS. Kelly canned and preserved. We all hunted and processed our own game and fish. I had a license to sell and work on firearms. We opened PREPPERS BEE SUPPLY AND MORE.
We were small, but word spread. We got busier. And busier. We ended up buying a building on the highway not too far from the farm, and opening up our first REAL store.
Our goal is to teach apiary classes, beekeeping 101, and have students come to the farm and work bees. Kelly is going to teach basic canning and preserving. I, as an Arkansas Game and Fish – Hunting Safety Instructor, will teach gun safety, hunting safety and basic gun care classes. Our store is expanding to sell bee supplies and prepping supplies such as alcohol stoves, survival foods, and water storage and filtration equipment. And books and books and more books… Give us time, we will get there.
We are members of Benton County Beekeepers (founding members), NWA Beekeepers, Carroll County Beekeepers, and Arkansas Beekeepers Association. See the CONTACT US page for contact information for each club / association.