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Local beekeeper receives grant that's the bees knees

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Jackson Corbin comes from a long line of beekeepers, but it wasn't until he was in his early 20s that he began to consider becoming one himself.

"I was watching a TV show on bees and thought that it might be something I'd like to get into," he said.

A landscaper, Corbin had a customer who wanted to begin keeping bees but would only do so with Corbin's help. From that, Corbin began to keep his own hives and now has between 25 to 40 at any given time.

"I wouldn't mind having 100 hives if life takes me in that direction," he said.

Corbin was recently awarded a grant from WNC AgOptions which he will use to build a honey processing facility. WNC AgOptions has been exclusively funded by the NC Tobacco Trust Fund Commission since 2003, and the grant program is managed in partnership between the West District of NC Cooperative Extension and WNC Communities.

Last year Corbin harvested between 1,100 and 1,200 pounds of honey, which he said he could've sold to one person more times than once. The honey processing facility will allow him to streamline operations and continue to provide honey not only in bulk but also for local buyers.

"My mission is to keep honey affordable for local people," he said. "I want to keep my product available for all."

In bulk, he has already begun to work with a local meadery, as well as with a local industry to supply their kitchen.

The grant monies will provide for a pre-fabricated building, which Corbin bought locally and will have delivered.

"I will finish it in and hope to have it finished by the end of this year," he said. "It should be fully operational by the 2018 season."

Honey begins coming in between July and August, so during the winter and spring Corbin works on building and selling bee houses and supplies and preparing for the upcoming season.

Corbin and his wife, Beth, try to use as much of the products produced by the bees as possible. Clean wax is poured into candles and they sell and barter products with others.

"I traded honey for that dog out there," Corbin said, smiling.

Corbin was assisted in applying for the grant by a fellow beekeeper, Malanie Price, who asked him if she wrote the grant and he won what would he do with it. Through that process, he began to consider things he hadn't before. Others who helped with the process were Rutherford County Extension Director Jeff Bradley; Farm Service Agency's Janice Nicholson; Tim Will; and the president of the Rutherford County Beekeepers Association, John "JB" Stevens.

Corbin can apply for and receive the grant two more times, but he said he won't apply again for at least two years as he focuses on the honey processing facility and his bees.

Beekeeping isn't a hobby, Corbin said, and it's something he hopes to retire to.

"I've been doing this for a long time, and I am still learning," he said. "It's hard work. If you don't love it, you're not going to do it."

For more information on beekeeping in Rutherford County, visit facebook.com/rcbees.

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