Where Flowers Make Honey - Carolina Country
November 2023

Jim Hartman in his jelly kitchen.

The sound of bees can garner several reactions — fear, excitement, nervousness, or calm?

Studies show that bees can help individuals suffering from post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We spoke with one such person using bees in therapy, Jim Hartman.

Hartman joined the military after playing two years of college football for Missouri. “I saw my fellow linemen blowing out their knees,” he said. “No-good knees means no scholarship, which means no college education and you end up with a limp and some memories.”

He opted to join the Army to pay for college.

“I served with the 82nd Airborne and 101st Airborne (Air Assault),” he said. “After my first tour in Iraq at the very beginning of the war, I decided to transfer to Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), so I could work on roadside bombs. When I left the military I became a defense contractor training soldiers how to avoid incendiary explosive devices, or IEDs.”

As you can imagine, that has some impact on you, and Hartman experienced some issues with anxiety. He read that some Veterans Affairs chapters were using bees for therapy. He formed a relationship with another veteran from West Virginia who offered him some bees.

“I talked with him awhile and he finally convinced me to give it a try,” said Hartman. “I got in the car and drove to West Virgina to learn about and pick up bees."

While the original bees are now gone, Hartman's boxes have continued to grow.

"I had the bees, so I had honey and I sold some," said Hartman. "I ran the numbers and I knew I could turn this into a business."

"I had the bees, so I had honey and I sold some," said Hartman. "I ran the numbers and I knew I could turn this into a business."

The family lives in Linden on a 22-acre property, which now carries the name Secret Garden Bees Farm.

"When we started the farm, I made a plan to wholesale my honey to larger stores," said Hartman."That was the only way I could see to do enough volume to earn enough money to pay bills. We do also sell retail at select festivals, but that is seasonal revenue."

The Hartmans use a retired government trailer to house honey retrieval operations. This operation is done in the evening and has to be completed before morning. Then they have their bottling operation. This is where the wildflower and clover honey is created. But that's not all on this farm.

"We had pears and grapes on the farm and weren't doing anything with them, so we decided to try making some jelly," said Hartman. "We started in our kitchen and made a few hundred bottles in some extra jars that our neighbor gave us and used a crude home-printed label."

When they took it to a local farmer's market, it sold out almost immediately, proving to be a viable option, they learned what had to be done to bring it online.

The family has two dogs, and because of that, they needed to move into a separate kitchen. They also needed to have their recipes tested and approved.


"It took me over a year to figure out and implement our shipping container solution and get the recipes approved," he said. "The next step for us is to get the kitchen USDA certified when we do our Good Manufacturing Processes audit for the entire farm in 2024."

Hartman was able to obtain an upcycled shower container, as seen in the picture above, which he retrofitted into a kitchen. He also obtained solar panels, which he has installed on several of his buildings.

"We want to operate the farm in a sustainable way, so we have worked hard to decrease our energy footprint," said Hartman.

For Hartman, making the farm a net-zero energy consumer is the goal. The family is actually working on a new packing facility, where they will add another estimated 7 KW of solar.

This is part of the off-season work for the honey.

Although there are no more than 20 hives at any given time, when the off time comes, Hartman and his family will also be working on new hives and maintaining and repair current boxes and hives.

While working with his family, as well as showing other veterans what working with bees can bring them, Hartman is also currently a semi-finalist for American Farm Bureau Agriculture Innovation Challenge, which could earn nearly $40,000 for the farm if selected.

Learn more

Visit secretgardenbees.com to find out more.

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