Back in July, we visited Justin and Kavita Bay, of Rivulet Apiaries & Hindu Hillbilly Farms, at their home along the Clark Fork River. On a rare bit of flat ground between the forested hills, west of Missoula, and the Alberton Gorge, their apiary produces pure, raw honey and handcrafted honey skin care products.
Down a long dusty road, warm July air pressed down upon us as we gathered to explore the Bay’s operation. The smell of dry pine from the surrounding forest and the earthy sweetness of the hives drifted among us as we walked and talked. With a large home garden, a few pigs, horses out to pasture, and a buzzing bee yard, the abundance of life was ever present around their small farm.
“Bees are so fascinating,” said Justin. “I feel like we have so much to learn from them because they’re such cooperative creatures. You know, it’s amazing. Everybody has their job, everybody does their job. If they don’t, they won’t survive.”
The Bays take an understandable amount of pride in working hard and being a hive-to-table operation. Much like the bees, the farm and apiary is a full family affair. The Bay’s children, Cy and Sujatha, are an invaluable help whether working farmers markets, moving hives, adding frames, or extracting honey.
Though Justin grew up near a neighbor who kept bees, it took him many years to get into business himself. Years ago, he mentioned his interest to Kavita and, for a birthday, she got him a hive. Then one turned into three and three into eight.
However, commercial beekeeping is on a whole different scale. In 2009, the Bays bought a small apiary from over near Darby and now run about 500 hives. Last year they made around 26,000 pounds of honey.
“We essentially make a spring and summer honey crop and then do value added products to help diversify the business,” said Kavita. Along with honey, the Bays make skincare products, soaps, honey lemonade (try it at the Missoula Farmers Market), and do herbal infused honey as well.
Anthony Pavkovich is a Communications Coordinator for Abundant Montana. He lives in Melville, MT and has worked as a herder, butcher, and ranch hand. When not working to promote local food, you can find him traversing the landscape under his own power – be it in running shoes, on skis or by bike. To better get to know his backyard, he once ran 240 miles across the region he calls home. Send him your favorite trails at [email protected].