If you haven’t stopped by the Double R Honey Farms shop in a while, now would be a good time to get reacquainted.
The beekeeping supply store and honey retailer in Union Gap was remodeled earlier this year — and it’s creating kind of a buzz around town.
“We wanted to make it a place people would want to come — not just beekeepers, but also people who want to shop for gifts and other cool stuff,” said Laura Schreiner, who helps run the business with her partner, Randon Hodges.
“It was a complete makeover,” added Hodges, the beekeeper and owner of Double R Honey Farms. “Before we bought the store, it was more of a place where people would meet and talk about whatever. We just decided it was time to take it to the next level.”
Rod and Ladonna Jackman owned the store at 306 W. Washington Ave. — formerly Bees A Bunch — for 30 years before selling it to Double R in 2010.
The shop now has a more contemporary look, offering a variety of clothing, books, soaps, food products and gifts. The business also carries the most extensive selection of beekeeping supplies in Central Washington.
“You can get some of the supplies at other stores in the Valley, but you won’t get the expertise that we have,” said Schreiner, a Yakima native who started managing the retail side about a year ago.
The resident bee expert is Hodges, a former construction worker who started Double R Honey Farms about 12 years ago. The company has a separate operation in Idaho and sells its honey wholesale around the Northwest.
But running a business is only half of the equation for Hodges. His main focus is taking care of the honeybees properly — and educating the public to do the same.
Hodges approaches the beekeeping profession as more than just a way to support himself and his family. He is committed to a higher purpose.
“I want to teach people the right way, the healthy way, of doing this,” said Hodges, a longtime member of the Central Washington Beekeepers Association. “We never use any pesticides because they are so harmful to the bee population. These insects are already facing a lot of other challenges, like disease and mite infestations, and we don’t need to make it any harder for them. Our main goal is to keep the bees alive.”
Developing A Passion
For Hodges, the decision to become a full-time beekeeper didn’t happen overnight. In fact, he hadn’t given the idea much thought before his brother-in-law decided to hold him to a bet.
So Hodges tagged along with his brother-in-law on a trip to California, working with the bees in the orchards there. All it took was that one outing and Hodges was hooked.
“It didn’t take long before I really understood the bees, so I decided to buy my own and bring them back up here. I sold all of my tools and went into bees full time.”
What resonated with him, at first, was how crucial honeybees are in creating a healthy ecosystem. He gravitated toward the science of beekeeping, learning how to care for the insects and what they need to survive. Eventually, beekeeping became his passion.
“Changing careers was the best decision I ever made,” said Hodges, a native of Preston, Idaho. “But it’s not easy work. We’re a different breed of people. We’re basically farmers who never sleep. You’ll find us up half the night moving bees around just to get them in the right spots. We have to pay really close attention to what’s going on at all times, or the bees may not survive.”
Double R Honey Farms’ bees are based in the Yakima Valley and in Idaho, while Hodges services accounts as far away as California.
He said March and April are typically his busiest months, although this season started late due to the prolonged winter. The company started delivering bees to apricot orchards in early April before spreading out to other farms in the area as the weather warmed up.
“Last year, we had about half of the bees in orchards by the end of March,” Hodges said. “But this year was really late. I just do what Mother Nature tells me to do.”
In a few months, Double R will hire about a dozen warehouse workers at its Washington Avenue facility to extract the honey and package it for sale.
When Hodges isn’t tending to his own bees here and in Idaho, he’s typically working with other beekeepers — his customers and other members of the Central Washington Beekeepers Association — to teach them best practices.
He wants at-home beekeepers to be educated so they can help Double R with the broader goal of keeping the Northwest honeybee population healthy and strong.
“Beekeeping is much different than it was 30 years ago,” he said. “It’s getting harder because there is less open space and the pesticides are more powerful than before. The bees track those chemicals back to the hives and it kills them. We don’t want that to happen, so we try to work with as many people as possible so they know what to avoid.”
Hodges believes the educational component of beekeeping is just as important as the business side. That’s why he never rests this time of year.
“If we’re all in this together, we can work together to achieve the best outcome for us and for the bees,” he said.
Learn more at doublerhoneyfarms. com or by calling 509-452-8267.