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Soul Honey “bee-lieves” in the power of bees

Soul Honey “bee-lieves” in the power of bees

Robin checking the bee hives trying to find a good one to harvest a honey sample. Ruben Paquian

Soul Honey “bee-lieves” in the power of bees
January 25
14:15 2017

Amy Roh | Staff Writer

Driving past some of her 2,000 acres of land, Robin Young dons a black t-shirt that reads “It is well” with a thick brush and gloves nestled on the floor. As the Garth Brooks station plays in the background, Young cannot help but talk about her favorite topic — bees. 

“It’s just like snakes or guns or anything that could kill people,” Young said. “You don’t have to be afraid of them, you just need to understand it and respect what it is.”

However, she’s skeptical that her bees will make an appearance today. It is a chilly 57 degrees, too cold for them to come out.

“They have two muscles, one pulls one way, one pulls the other,” Young said. “It makes them vibrate and that’s how they fly. So just like a runner, when it’s really cold, their muscles don’t work right.”

After five years of beekeeping, she can easily tell.

Robin’s husband Jack about to light the smoker, getting ready to show us the inside of a hive. Ruben Paquian

Young and her husband, Jack, operate Soul Honey, a small business that sells big at the Denton County Community Market. Along with their honey, the business produces beeswax-based products like lotion bars, lip balms and various salves.

Her fascination with bees began when Jack gifted her a two-day beekeeping class for her birthday.

“I came home with two hives and never looked back,” Young said.

Now, she boasts seven apiaries, or collections of beehives, scattered north of the North Texas High Speedway all the way up to North Sanger. She and her husband own over 2,000 acres of land dedicated to livestock and their bees.

In all her years of beekeeping, Young has made it a point not use pesticides. It’s a conscious choice and a challenge she thoroughly enjoys.

“It’s just fascinating,” Young said. “I’m a religious person of faith and it’s just amazing to me how God’s design works. When you try to understand his design, it’s much easier than trying to do it your own way with those pesticides.”

Last year at the Texas Beekeepers Association Convention, Soul Honey won first place in the “Black Jar Blend” category, where visitors vote on the best honey without knowing its source.

In fact, their honey also beat the Texas State Fair winner.

“People are really just amazed at the fact that it’s all local honey,” Young said. “It’s maybe five, ten minutes away from Denton. They’re pretty much getting it as locally as they can get it. So we get really positive feedback.”

As her truck rumbles onto the dirt road, Young recalls the day she was stung the worst. She was eight months pregnant with her youngest when a dozen bees surrounded her.

Young was too busy ushering her children to church to pay much attention. Onlookers, however, thought otherwise.

“I had women and men come up to me saying ‘Are you okay?’ and ‘Do you need to talk to somebody?’” Young said. “They thought my husband was beating the hell out of me. I go and look in the bathroom and I have two black eyes and my face is all swollen, and I thought, ‘I need to let more people know I’m a beekeeper.’”

Young cultivates top-bar hives, a type of hive that harvests the whole swarm. This naturally makes the bees’ home cleaner and less prone to bacteria.

“In a top bar hive, I harvest the whole comb,” Young said. “The honey and everything. That gives me more beeswax to make my products, but it also makes my bees work a little harder because they’ll have to rebuild what is lost.”

As Young prepares to open one of them, she gestures to come closer.

“Come on, be a part of this,” Young said.

It’s an easy gesture for Young, who gives presentations, tours and apprenticeships to the public about beekeeping. Every year, Young mentors 10 people, with the option of bringing a buddy along.

Apprentices are exposed to multiple hives on her farm and are even given the ability to build two of their own.

“Robin was offering such an enormous amount of knowledge,” former apprentice Kelly McGill said. “She wanted to help us get started and was willing to stay with us for a year. You could tell she did her research and she was excited to hear what we thought as well.”

Robin holding a fresh chunk of a bee hive. Bees are crawling inside and out of the honeycomb. Ruben Paquian

Recently, a species of bees was declared endangered for the first time ever. The wildlife service blames climate change, pesticides and loss of habitat.

In the face of this news, Young sees her apprenticeships as a way to help with their extinction.

“It’s not just the bees that are dying off, it’s the beekeepers,” Young said. “So many beekeepers are older, retired people. So I’m trying to get younger people to do it. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also not. [Because of the harvesting season], you’re free when crunch time comes to spend time with your families.”

Meanwhile, Young and her husband are sort of a tag team. He tends to the livestock, but still helps with harvesting the honey and other operations.

“I love the beneficial things and the medicinal purposes that come from the products,” Jack said. “It’s great to see the benefits that come out of them.”

The two are planning to open their market in April and look forward to interacting with their customers.

Although Soul Honey has received offers to sell their products at local grocers, they’ve decided to remain at the farmer’s market.

“I’m getting to the people of Denton,” Young said. “People that I can talk to and get feedback on, where I feel like I’m closer with my customers. It’s just a very unique experience.”

Likewise, the customers of Denton have noticed Young’s dedication to the community.

“Her knowledge and passion for educating was so impressive,” customer Kandice Andrew Ray said. “Her property is beautiful yet functional, her products are amazing and her dedication to the wellness of bees is inspirational. She also accepted no payment for the field trip. It’s her gift to the community.”

All of Soul Honey’s products are emblazoned with the Bible verse of Proverbs 16:24, which states that “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

With the Denton community, perhaps Young is doing just that.

“I believe that honey can help you in many ways,” Young said. “I’m not a doctor so I can’t say how, but I believe it can really do you some good.”

Featured Image: Robin checking the bee hives trying to find a good one to harvest a honey sample. Ruben Paquian

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Kayleigh Bywater

Kayleigh Bywater

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