MILTON-FREEWATER — It’s fair to say Ryan Lieuallen is pretty buzzed about the blueprint being drawn up for his family’s business and their future.
Lieuallen is founder of The Sweet Bee Honey Company, which sells a variety of honeys, bees in bulk, pollination services and queen bee cells.
Located near the more civilized entrance of primitive Lincton Mountain Road off the meandering Walla Walla River Road, the Lieuallen home and bee farm is hidden from every beaten path in the area.
Lieuallen is the fifth generation in his family to tend bees, he said, a lineage that began in 1860.
“I was born into the system,” he said, recalling that images of the winged creatures adorned everything in his childhood home, from silverware to the walls.
Running an apiary wasn’t part of his life plan when he graduated from McEwen-Weston High School in 2005, even if he did start up his own bee operation in 2006 “as a summer gig.”
He didn’t know then the time already spent under the tutelage of his mother’s father, Edmund Varney, would later come knocking.
Varney, a retired career beekeeper, taught the slightly wild teen about sustainable beekeeping and, more importantly, about being a good human, according to Sweet Bee’s marketing.
But Lieuallen’s father imparted his business acumen to his son, meaning the young man could clearly see there wasn’t really any money to be made in the bee business — any wealth came from investing in land needed for the pursuit, he explained.
He headed off to Washington State University, with plans to focus on business and entomology, the study of insects.
Business won out — “I knew how to do bees,” he said — and he ended up back where he started. But not before gathering important tools, such as how to collect bee semen for research.
Lieuallen spent a year in Argentina, immersed in work as part of WSU’s honey bees and pollinator research program to help breed a more durable bee that can better fly in the face of environmental, parasitic and infectious dangers.
By 2014, Lieuallen had found and married his own “queen,” and the couple purchased the 15 acres of land on Lincton Mountain, home base to about 5,000 bees.
Before long, two daughters, Cadence and Sierra, joined the Lieuallen colony.
Somewhere in there, honey prices fell. Lieuallen remembered lessons from his father and knew changes were in order, including diversification and “vertical integration” within the company.
In this case, that meant asking his wife, Stacie Lieuallen, to take on an active role in Sweet Bee Honey Company.
Before deciding to stay home with their children, Stacie Lieuallen had taught high school health and physical education for a dozen years. It was a career she loved, especially enjoying how she could positively impact the lives of teens, and she expected to return to it.
It wasn’t an easy “yes” to her husband’s request, Stacie Lieuallen said, noting it took about a year for her to find her own path into the family business.
Stacie Lieuallen spent months designing all things retail for Sweet Bee Honey Company, including that brand new tasting room.
In the space she’s cultivated, Stacie Lieuallen teaches her customers about bee health and honey properties. Each flavor profile is distinct, from the subtle tang of the blackberry to the simpler sweetness of the vetch to the long finish of thistle. In coating the tongue, buckwheat’s toasted, smoky and robust taste instantly creates a desire for seconds.
Like a bee to a flower, Stacie Lieuallen uses honey samples to draw folks in to enlist them in saving the bees, who need all the help humans can offer.
“Bees are really struggling,” she said. “Bees are part of our ecosystem and always should be.”
The Lieuallens have big plans for the immediate and far future. They anticipate their children will have the same immersion into the business their father had, the better to continue the legacy.
By the time that happens, Sweet Bee Honey Company will be even tastier, the couple predicts.
Original Article: Source