Adee Honey Farms got its start from Vernon Adee, during the Great Depression after he received a letter from his brother in Missouri that read: “I can’t sell chickens or hogs, but I’m doing well with honey. Be advised: Get a beehive.”
So Vernon and his four brothers, all teachers by trade started beekeeping in Maxwell Nebraska as a way to supplement teaching salaries during the depression. After World War II, in 1948 Vernon moved his family to Haddam Kansas where he began beekeeping as a full-time occupation, working with about 4,000 hives. Vernon was considered the “father of beekeeping in Kansas,” because of all the people he helped get started.
Vernon’s sons became interested in beekeeping watching their father, and in 1957 Richard and Stanley Adee answered a trade magazine advertisement from a retiring beekeeper in Bruce, South Dakota. The outfit came with 1,500 hives, and a breeding yard in Woodville, Mississippi where the operation wintered its bees. Shortly after buying the operation in 1959, Richard lost his brother Stanley in a trucking accident. Determined to succeed for his brother’s sake, Richard continued on.
Initially he only raised bees for honey production, but as that business began to suffer competition from Chinese honey producers and a diminishing floral landscape in the Midwest, Richard’s sons, Bret and Kelvin Adee decided they would need to develop another business practice to keep the company afloat.
In 1990 Adee Honey Farms began sending bees to California for the annual almond pollination season, sending almost 160 semi-truck loads of honeybees across the nation every year. The farm still follows this migratory pattern, keeping the bees in the Midwest during the summer for honey production, and sending them to California in the fall, to winter them until the almonds bloom for pollination.
Richard’s two sons, Bret and Kelvin, his daughter, Marla, and several of his grandchildren work on the farm full time. Their operation has grown to around 80,000 hives as the family continues to pursue excellence in stewarding natures hardest workers – the honeybee.