Sugar Bottom Farm | West Virginia | Army
Eric Grandon started out keeping bees around 2014.
Like most beekeepers, he took a 6 week course on Beginning Beekeeping. But after getting bees, Eric found himself more of a bee “haver” or bee “watcher” than a Beekeeper.
He thinks back on those days: “I can say this because I had two hives and I watched them swarm every month. All that training resulted of still knowing absolutely nothing about bees which scared me more than facing the enemy. I was determined to just kill both colonies using a WWII era Flame Thrower and 50 pounds of 7 Dust.”
Just before pulling the trigger, Eric met another veteran who “basically used me like a pop up target because of my ignorance of the single most important thing in Agriculture today. The Honey Bee.”
For the next 2 1/2 years, Eric made over 60 visits to his new Mentor’s Bee yard, which happened to be 5 hours away. For 2-3 days at a time he worked with his hives and when Eric found an oddity, his mentor explained the science of find. Ed Forney of Geezer Ridge Farm continues to be there for him, even now Eric himself is answering questions from 200 beekeepers a month.
After completion of that 2 1/2 years, Eric became the second only Certified Instructor for WVDA’s Veterans and Warriors to Agricultural program. Ed continues to be number 1. Ed has basically made him the Beekeeper, Mentor, Businessman, and Farmer he is today.
In the last few years, Eric’s Sugar Bottom Farm has become a successful endeavor – with Eric measuring success not in dollars but in accomplishments. They sell Nucs and Packages in season, Queens, sell Mann Lake Equipment and provide FREE hands on and lecture training.
His latest endeavor took him to the Big Island of Hawaii. After working with another Disabled Veteran and side by side with the owner of Hamakua Apiaries, they now sell their 6 varieties of Hawaiian honeys in a DC Farmers Market, online all over the country and of course in WV.
FVC has been with Eric step by step from the beginning. We awarded him a Fellowship grant for a 50 cubic foot refrigerator to store Romaine lettuce before delivery to the local schools through the USDA’s Farm to School program. As appreciation for this support, Eric has decided it’s time to give back. Sugar Bottom Farm has graciously offered to fully fund a handful of veteran beekeepers in 2021.
Eric spent a little over 20 years in the Army and WVARNG. He’s a combat veteran of Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom II, and also served 4 more “Peacetime” tours in the Middle East.
Reflecting on the power of beekeeping, Eric shares this closing thought:
“I am now a Totally and Permanently Disabled Veteran and I’m considered Homebound as per ‘them’. If I ever decide to believe them I’m sure I’ll be dead within 6 months. Honeybees and agriculture keeps me on this side of the grass and from believing them. Brothers and Sisters don’t ever believe them, just believe in yourself.”