A member of the Calhoun County Young Farmers Committee, Hill is now the owner/operator of Eastaboga Bee Co. Along with bottling honey, Hill makes beeswax products, including candles, lip balm, hand cream, wood polishes, and leather creams. He regularly sells at The Market at Pepper Place in Birmingham and the Anniston Downtown Farmers Market. Eastaboga Bee Co. products also can be found in grocery stores across the state, and his honey is a popular ingredient with local breweries and chefs in three states who use his product yearround. “Farmers markets are only open certain times during a year, so having chefs interested in our product means a lot,” Hill said. “The artistic ways they use honey—they’re just things I would never think of. And they keep me honest because they know what good honey is supposed to taste like. The fact that they like what I’m doing gives me some legitimacy.”
Even in his short time in the honeybee business, Hill said he’s seen a change in consumer demand because of the farm-to-fork movement. “People are really interested in knowing where their food is coming from now,” he said. “There are more people who want to use honey as a sweetener because they’re trying to avoid processed sweeteners.”
While Hill has achieved great success in his short time raising honeybees, he’s learned a lot from those experienced in the honey business, including Limestone County’s Lionel Evans. After forty-three years working with honeybees, Evans said he has seen tremendous transformations in the business. He grew up on a Lamar County farm, where his father kept honeybees. Evans’s career as a pipefitter took him to North Alabama, where he decided to take up beekeeping in addition to his day job. “Everything has changed so much,” said Evans. “We used to have about 50 hives across the county, and there were years we’d make 400 to 500 gallons of honey. Now we have about 70 hives, and if we can make 300 gallons in a year, we’ve done well.”
Honey never spoils, because it’s inhospitable for bacteria. There have been reports of edible honey being found in ancient Egyptian tombs—proof honeybees have allowed humans to extract their share of the sweet stuff for thousands of years.
Honey never spoils, because it’s inhospitable for bacteria. There have been reports of edible honey being found in ancient Egyptian tombs—proof honeybees have allowed humans to extract their share of the sweet stuff for thousands of years. “What I like better than anything else is just when you open up a hive of bees, you see nature at its finest,” Evans said. The love of being outdoors and watching bees work is the thread that connects folks like Evans and Hill. “I like interacting with people at the farmers markets, but out on the farm, you get to be by yourself and have time to think,” Hill said. “That’s part of what I like best about my job—just being outside with the sound of bees buzzing.”
Of course, there’s also an added bonus of having an endless supply of honey for Hill’s favorite lunch—a grilled peanut butter and honey sandwich. But what does Hill say is the best way to enjoy honey? “In large quantities,” Hill said. “I recommend that for everyone.”
This feature was previously published in Issue 126, Fall 2017.
About the Author
Mary Johnson is the director of news services for the Alabama Farmers Federation and the co-host of the regional TV show Simply Southern. Alfa Insurance, sponsor of the “Alabama Makers” department in Alabama Heritage, is a Montgomery-based company committed to providing its family of customers with all of its life, auto, home, farm, and business insurance needs.