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My journey from monoculture farmer to homestead beekeeper

7/26/2010 5:39:31 AM

Tags: Top bar hive, bee hive, sustainable beekeeping, beelanding, James A Zitting

I’m greatly honored to be a guest blogger for Mother Earth News, and would like to introduce myself.

Some of my earliest desires to live sustainably on the land were fueled in my early 20’s by reading Mother Earth Magazine and books by Gene Logsdon, Masanobu Fukuoka, and others. These readings planted a desire in me to live the country life in a different way than I had been raised.Me holding a frame of brood at BeeLanding

I grew up on a 2000 acre mono culture farm, and at one time my family owned an egg farm with 6,000 laying hens.  Let’s hope I never have to tell stories in the blog about those chickens.  It was not healthy for the chickens and it was not healthy for my young mind.

Reading Gene Logsdon made me think about sustainable agriculture, and the many joys that accompany that lifestyle.  I caught a glimpse of what living closer to the land might look like.  And so I began to dream.  During this time I drove a truck on the Uranium haul in Arizona and I imagined the good life.

 I bought my first bee hive about the same time.  Like many first time beekeepers, I closely followed the advice that the professionals recommended, only to see my bees contract every disease out there.  Of course, the professionals quickly informed me about all the medications and chemicals I needed to dump in the hive. Funny thing is, I tried the chemical approach and my bees still died.  I quickly realized that beekeeping was commercialized, and required medications and manipulating to keep up with the latest pests. I lost interest in bees for a time.

I like to tell folks that this down economy has been a blessing for me and my family.  It is, in essence, forcing us to live the good life.  What was a hobby, has now become my passion.  With my wife, Nikki, and our five kids we now keep bees in a sustainable way on our 35 acre homestead that we call Beelanding.  We enjoy showing others how simple and rewarding keeping bees in your back yard can be. Yes!  You can keep bees without any medications. You can work with nature, and watch as your colony of honey bees grows before your eyes, and enjoy the benefits of fresh raw honey and wax.

I have done a lot of tinkering and research into bees and beehives.  I like to experiment and think outside the box.  I’ve been trying to figure out how to make the ultimate beehive for the back yard enthusiast, and more importantly for the health of the bees a better beehive.  You can see my ideas and designs at  My kids have helped me get all up to date and you can follow what we are doing on Facebook and Twitter.   I’d like to incorporate your comments and questions in future blog posts.  I look forward to hearing from you.

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Post a comment below.


Jared Barnhart
8/3/2010 1:05:35 PM
Excellent! Thanks James. I hope your work expands awareness that broad spectrum pesticides, herbicides et al. - aren't the answer and often cause more problems than the original challenge. Jared

James A Zitting
8/2/2010 12:12:19 PM
Jared, Yes it is a top bar hive. I have made several improvements from the original designs that most people use. You can see a video on my web site at Thanks, James

Jared Barnhart
8/2/2010 10:16:14 AM
Is that a "top bar" bee hive in the picture? The one that was featured in Mother Earth News a couple of months ago. I hope to build one this winter when I have a little more time.

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