Eagle Creek Apiary is a family bee raising operation with more than 300 hives in the Eagle Creek watershed. The farm was founded in 1997 and has been bringing bee products to market for area residents since 2013.
The main hub of hives is found at the home of apiary founder Jeff Cripe on Boone County Road 100 North, Sheridan. There are 23 locations set up by bee keepers who contribute to the pot of local honey.
The hives are spaced out in the area to serve customers in Boone, Hamilton and Marion counties. When customers visit farmers' markets from Sheridan to Indianapolis and from Lebanon to Noblesville, they find local bee products that were produced near their own backyard.
Cripe and his fellow beekeepers check the hives and harvest each month, making for fresh, raw honey products that they say can help fight seasonal allergies and aid with digestive ailments.
Cripe turned to honey for a natural health aid after an injury almost 30 years ago. He took up beekeeping as a hobby and eventually a profession.
“Nutrition has been our focus on this; 29 years ago I turned to the bees for a raw honey diet for needs of my own health,” Cripe said. “We have lived off of these girls’ products for a long time, it was just for ourselves, but since 2013 we have been sharing these products at market.”
Not just Cripe, but his whole family is involved in beekeeping in some way, whether checking hives, bottling honey or just helping sell at markets. His daughter Millie is now a partner in the business and even became a health coach to spread the word about bee-based nutrition.
“Bees are incredible creatures. Everything they produce is amazing,” Millie said. “Honey has saved our lives.”
Millie said the combination of raw honey and bee pollen creates a “bee-tox” system that helps flush the liver and provide the body with a very natural form of glucose.
What makes Eagle Creek Apiary products unique, Cripe said, is the focus on keeping the products raw and at the same temperature found naturally in the hives.
Today the strains of bees are chosen for survivability and honey production, but the inaugural hive was a feral colony that came native to the property, which was a former dairy farm.
The farm has been turned into a honey processing hub, with a series of temperature controlled rooms geared for bottling, processing and storage.
The honey is bottled as is, or turned into products like spun honey, bee pollen or beeswax products such as soaps, candles and lip balms.
The honey is harvested monthly by Cripe and partner farmers throughout the year, “as the bees and the temperatures allow it,” he said. Seasonal flora that bees consume give honey different flavors, depending on the harvest time.
With the honey harvest occurring year-round, there is a honey-do list each day, with processing occurring even during the winter.
Currently, beekeepers are having a bountiful summer season with golden honey at its peak production.
“We harvest from as early as April to as late as November, if the weather and the bees allow — it is always due to that,” Cripe said. “Right now, in the middle of July, we are at the peak of production season as far as nectar collection.”