Wild@Heart owners Tom Tuner and Jorge Garibay have started a bee-based business growing and selling Kansas bees. A tasty sideline of selling honey has many locals interested in what is going on in St. John.
It all started years ago when Tom Turner’s mother wouldn’t let him grow bees for 4-H. Now, Tuner and business partner Jorge Garibay own and operate a thriving bee business based out of St. John.
Wild@Heart, located at 206 North Main in St. John, is the result of that partnership. For now, the store is only open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the third Saturday of every month but as the business expands, so could the hours, Turner said.
Turner and his daughter, Amber Turner who runs the store, have honey for sale in a variety of flavors plus spun and comb honey. They are also selling hives and bees. They can be reached through their website or on Facebook for those wanting honey. Or contact Turner at 620-546-3433 or his business partner Jorge Garibay at 620-352-1763.
The response to the new business has been positive and they have been selling their products.
“There’s a lot of interest,” Turner said.
Turner said he was always interested in bees and that interest continued to grow even though is mother wouldn’t let him have bees for a 4-H project.
Turner’s wife, Pam, retired from teaching at a college and he encouraged her to get involved and work with him on this business project.
“It would be a hobby we could do together,” Turner said.
Turner wanted to sell bees, honey and hives. So he started researching and got an experience he didn’t expect. He looked for bees for sale in Kansas but couldn’t find any.
“I went to buy bees but there were not bees for sale,” Turner said.
And that wasn’t just Kansas. He couldn’t find bees for sale anywhere except in California and Georgia.
The lack of bees for sale in Kansas or any place near Kansas got Turner to thinking he could take advantage of this situation.
“Maybe this is an opportunity here,” Turner said.
So he started on a quest to get information. He traveled to seminars including one by Leo Sharashkin, editor of “Keeping Bees With a Smile” and gathered a lot of information, including his hive system that is different than the type used in America. Instead of boxes, frames are used and its less intrusive for the bees, Turner said.
Information on Sharashkin’s bees is available at horizontalhive.com.
Turner also went to Nebraska to Michael Bush’s bee camp for a week and got some very valuable hands-on experience. He also met Bush’s intern Jorge Garibay from California. Turner shared his business dream with Garibay who saw the potential and a partnership was formed. Garibay took care of his college’s bees and grew up in Napa Valley so he had an background working with bees. Garibay had moved from California to south of Omaha then moved to St. John to start this business venture with Turner.
They formed Wild@Heart and began raising bees, producing hives and selling honey. They have their own equipment, a lot of it experimental, including hives, as they work on a number of bee related projects.
“We’re doing a lot of experimenting,” Turner said.
Turner said they are raising bees naturally without chemicals and allowing the bees to develop their own queens which is helping the bees survive. The goal of the business is to supply bees, hives, honey and provide and educational experience for people who want to keep bees.
Hives for the business are scattered across Stafford, Reno and Edwards County, Turner said. Honey is collected depending on the flow in each hive. They are in the process of collecting honey now. They did a big collection last week and will do anther next week. The hives are located next to cotton, soybean and alfalfa fields. To provide a constant source of flowering plants, Turner said they plant a mixture of things including clover and sunflowers and asters and canola. The planted areas are from 5 to 10 acres and are necessary for their business.
“It guarantees there will be food source if there is a shortage,” Turner said. “We have to leave enough for them for the winter.”
Blooming native plants provide the additional resources needed for bees including shrubs, wild plums, wild currants, catalpa, locust, elm and other tree that flower.
Turner said there are lots of bees in the area and success is all about the habitat. He wants bees that can survive winter in south central Kansas. He’s not sure what species of bees he has but he is sending samples to a geneticist in Norway to determine their background.
In the winter, the bees go into a “winter cluster” inside the hive and survive on the honey.