How we started
Our Great Grandfather and his son started beekeeping as a hobby in the 1950's. They bought 2 beehives for $10 a piece from a New York beekeeper who visited Florida every winter. This hobby eventually grew into a full time commercial business. The family would sit on the porch and teach the children the craft of beekeeping. We have been bringing raw honey from the bees to your table for four generations.
Family owned and operated since 1956. Producers of local Raw Honey from Florida. Our hives pollinate orange groves, ranches, woodlands and mangrove marshes throughout the Treasure Coast in St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River and Okeechobee counties.
Click here for local floral sources.
Family creates buzz for honey business
By Denise Wolf correspondent
November 18, 2002
For 28-year-old Melissa Gruwell, the comparison of honey to pure gold isn't much of a stretch.
The sweet elixir has provided a living for three generations of her family since her grandparents, Carroll and Betty Gruwell, established in 1959 their bee-keeping operation along U.S. 1 just south of Fort Pierce.
Carroll Gruwell had learned the business, like most beekeepers do, from his father Orville Gruwell, a farmer from Ottumwa, Iowa.
Today, the Fort Pierce-based business maintains several hundred colonies in the citrus groves and flatlands across Indian River, Martin, St. Lucie and Okeechobee counties.
Run entirely by family members, theirs is a traditional farm family, absent of titles and driven with an attitude of whatever it takes to get the job done.
During the busiest season -- from February through September -- the five Gruwells often work seven days a week to extract the honey from their many hives.
Apiary founder and grandfather, Carroll Gruwell, remains involved in packing and selling their finest grade honey direct to the public from his home at 4801 Dunn Road along U.S. 1. Although most of their customers are repeat and know the location by heart, a fading sign announces the entrance to the small apiary, inviting customers to "Buzz On In."
"Our business picks up when the Yankees come south," said the elder Gruwell.
Larry Gruwell, 51, Carroll's son and father to Melissa and David, graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in chemical engineering. When he went to college, he didn't intend to make a living with bees. However, it wasn't long before he was drawn back to the farm.
"I worked for about a year before I came back," said Larry Gruwell, who admits some concern for the future of the honey industry because of foreign competition, the introduction of new diseases, which kill off the bees, and the challenges of the area's increasing urbanization.
"You can't make honey out of asphalt," he said.
Jami Yanoski of the National Honey Board says although there are considerable challenges facing the industry, honey production is holding its own as an industry with about 1,600 commercial bee-keeping operations in the United States.
Like the Gruwells', she said, most are family-owned operations that have been passed down through the generations. And like the Gruwells', many are struggling to keep the business afloat.
"We're cautiously optimistic," said Yanoski. "We're especially seeing growth in the varietal honeys like Florida's orange blossom and gallberry varieties."
Yanoski said that a recent study found that honey can still be found in about 87 percent of the nation's households. Since 1980, U.S. honey production has averaged around 200 million pounds per year.
The youngest generation of Gruwells -- Melissa, her brother David Gruwell and cousin Chris Gruwell, both 21 -- is counting on the renewed popularity of the product to carry on the family business.
Under the direction of Carroll and Larry, they produce and sell 55-gallon drums of bakery-grade honey annually to nationally known packers such as Sue Bee Honey, Bee Natural Honey and Grobe Honey in a quantity sufficient to provide a living for all involved.
The Gruwell family would not provide specifics about the number of drums produced a year or sales figures for their operation.
Less than two years ago, Melissa Gruwell resigned from a position with the University of Florida and returned home with a master's degree in early learning to join the operation. She, along with Chris and David Gruwell, is leaving no stone unturned in finding new ways to market their product to the growing consumer market along the Treasure Coast.
Recently, Melissa and her mother, Brenda Gruwell, began producing a line of honey-based products such as lip balm, hair conditioner, lotions, as well as bee-wax candles and a line of raw honey and bee pollen. The products often are sold at area events such as Jammin' Jensen in Jensen Beach, the Farmers Market in Fort Pierce and Friday Fest, also in Fort Pierce.
She recently established buzzzonin.com on the Web and is optimistic that the Internet will draw new customers like, well, bees to honey.
|Local Raw Honey Floral Sources
Orange Blossom honey is often a combination of citrus floral sources. Orange is a leading honey source in southern Florida. Orange trees bloom primarily in March and April resulting in a white to extra light amber honey with a distinctive flavor and the aroma of orange blossoms.
A mix of floral sources honey bees gather when the main nectar sources of orange blossom, palmetto and Brazilian pepper are not in bloom. Wild flower may include one or more of a variety of nectar sources depending on time of bloom and hive location. These sources consist of golden rod, cabbage palm, rag weed, spanish needle, willow and any other nectar producing plant.
Saw Palmetto is one of the characteristic understory plants of the low pinelands throughout the state of Florida. Saw palmetto is usually a good nectar producer, yielding a light amber table honey.
Is one of the understory shrubs of the flatwoods, throughout the state of Florida, blooming from March to May. It is a good nectar source, producing one of the best grades of honey in the state.
Mangrove fringes the coastal areas from Levy County on the west, through the Keys to Volusia County on the east coast. In St. Lucie County, mangroves are abundant along the banks of the Indian River Lagoon. It is a good nectar producer nearly every year from the months of May to July. Hives located within proximity to the Lagoon's mangrove plants collect nectar and pollen especially in July following the palmetto bloom. The honey is white and granulates very quickly after extracting.