Harrisonburg Veteran Wins Tractor Supply Grant To Expand Apiary
- By HARLEIGH CUPP Daily News-Record
A gentle humming filled the air surrounding 12 stacked wooden hives — some painted in pastel pink, blue and yellow — while Barry Gibson lifted the lids to peek in on his treasured honeybees.
Hannah Bees Apiary has a story as simple and sweet as the honey its more than 600,000 bees produce each year.
Gibson is a retired U.S. Navy corpsmen of more than 20 years that served on the front lines in Iraq during several different deployments. He peaked an interest in bees and read through several books about apiculture before having the opportunity to take free classes through Michigan State University as a serviceman.
His education certainly did not go to waste, as Gibson rattled off tidbits about the world of bees that he had grown so fascinated by.
He met Hannah Wills in 2019 and moved to their home in Harrisonburg the following year. Coincidentally, Wills father kept bees growing up and so she encouraged Gibson to start a few of his own in their backyard. He listened and what started as a hobby hive two years ago has grown into a vision for starting a small business.
Last month, Gibson received a $1,000 scholarship through a partnership of Tractor Supply Company and the Farmer Veteran Coalition that he had applied for earlier in the year. As one of 60 Veteran farmer honorees from across the nation, he plans to use the funds to construct a storage building for his beekeeping supplies — which are currently housed under the carport — and to expand his apiary to have hives in other locations.
Gibson’s real dream, he said, is to open a coffee shop as a place to display Hannah’s artwork and provide a space for veterans — and anyone else in the community — to gather and share “old war stories.” Honey is how he plans to get there.
“I didn’t start this to make a profit,” explained Gibson. “I have PTSD, and it helps me a lot just being up there [with my bees]. They have their own little world, and it’s soothing to me just to be up there.”
Get in touch with Hannah Bees Apiary and follow Gibson’s farm journey online through his new website at www.hannahbeesapiary.com.
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