Honey of a Hobby
With a sweet freight, this beekeeper keeps on truckin’
“I run bees to support my trucking habit.”
That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but as Paul Roeder shows you around his honey operation outside of Hebron, North Dakota, you see a nugget of truth.
Four semis, gleaming in the North Dakota sun, make up the family’s other business – Roeder Trucking. The pride of the fleet is the 4,500-gallon tanker dedicated to delivering honey – one of only a handful in existence.
“We’re one of the few lucky beekeepers that can haul our honey in a 4,500-gallon tank down to Sioux City, (Iowa), one of the distribution points for the Sioux Honey Association Co-op, which is headquartered in Sioux City.
“We don’t have to barrel it up. It takes a lot of the labor out of it and saves us a lot of time and energy.”
Honey has been the Roeder family business for some time. Paul and his brother John currently run the show. Their sister, Colleen, takes care of the office work. They became members of the Sioux Honey co-op in 2004.
But their family’s honey-roots go back another generation. It all began in Randolph, Nebraska, known as the “Honey Capital of the Nation” based on the number of beekeeping families who once populated the area.
“My dad, Don Roeder, was just a kid that needed a job and ended up working for a local honey company in Randolph, which was Miller Honey Company out of Colton, California. They asked if he would go to California and he was more than willing to see the country, so he headed west.”
“He eventually ended up back 20 miles from Randolph, bought a little bee outfit on sale and ended up in Dixon, Nebraska.” Dixon was the location that started the Roeder Honey Farms’ booming business and is still one of the locations for their honey production.
After creating a strong foundation in Dixon, Roeder Honey Farms began to look for other areas to expand the business, searching for better flower sources and better honey production. Paul and his family weren’t the only ones in search of new fields, though. Another beekeeper decided to relocate after seeing a photo in a newspaper article. The photo captured workers building a dam in North Dakota. But what caught the eye of that beekeeper were the miles of yellow fields in the picture – a good sign that a beekeeping business could flourish in that area.
He was one of the original beekeepers to come up here and that’s what got him up here. That picture in that newspaper. Not long after, other honey farms followed suit and moved to North Dakota, including Roeder Honey Farms.
On the road again
While Paul enjoys the freedom and fresh air of being a beekeeper, there are also many challenges. One of them is having to be away from family for long periods of time as the team moves the bees from location to location.
“The hardest part about being a beekeeper is the traveling. You’re away quite a bit. From North Dakota, we’ll head to Texas in the fall. We’ll winter the bees there.”
Then, in late-January, early-February, Paul and his team run the bees to California for almond pollination.
“We’re only there for a month or two,” Paul continued. “We’ll load them all back up, go back to Texas and then head back to North Dakota.”
For Paul, it’s also about the ability to connect with people from all around the country. As a beekeeper with many years of experience, traveling has become a natural part of continuing the traditions established at Roeder Honey Farms.
“We like to have a relationship with as many of our landowners as we can. We know them from all over the United States. It’s amazing the vast amount of people that a beekeeper has to know to do his job. It’s a lot of people.
“We’re just local farmers. We’re trying to do the best job that we possibly can and put the best product out there.”
No one can deny the hard work that goes into being a beekeeper – the hours, time away from family, and daily activities of honey production. With the help of Sioux Honey, Paul and his family have been able to maintain their tradition – not only of being a family-run business but also being part of something bigger. Paul hopes these traditions will continue to a third generation once his nephew, Nic Roeder, takes over the business. Continuing the strong relationship with Sioux Honey will allow Roeder Honey Farms to be part of an excellent team, while also supporting the bees, the co-op and, yes, even Paul’s trucks.
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