Tupelo Honey and the Apalachicola River

February 16, 2017

On our first trip we met Gary Adkison, a local beekeeper, at a gas station at the one stop light in Wewahitchka. Wewahitchka is a small town in Northwest Florida with a population of almost 2,000 people. From there he took us to his house, where he keeps his beehives. There, he began telling us about himself and his life as a beekeeper before we conducted more of a “sit-down” style interview. After this, he showed us the beehives and even scraped off some honey for us to try. Towards the end of our trip, he showed us pictures of various aspects of the honey-making process that he wasn’t able to show us in person due to the time of year, and he gave us each a bottle of honey to take home. Gary showed us the ins and outs of his beekeeping farm, we learned about his struggles and quickly realized how serious the matter of Tupelo honey is; we found out that it was more than just a business, his passion and care for the bees had created a way of living. Gary was interested in recreating the old and economical habits of beekeeping along the river. He would use barges to haul the boxes to and from the Tupelo trees. It was painful to hear that such large companies are taking over the small businesses, like Gary’s. These corporate companies come in from out of town for about two to three weeks and leave right after they have gotten what they wanted, unlike Gary, a true resident of Wewahitchka, who cares for the bees as if they were his own children.

 

On our second trip, we met Randall Langston at his home in Smith Creek, Sopchoppy. After meeting his family, he took us to his bee farm, which was a short drive away across his land. While he was driving his ATV, we followed along behind him in the car and admired his many acres of land. We then conducted a sit-down interview before he showed us his beehives. We learned about his father and the generations of beekeeping before him. Afterwards, we walked down to the river where he showed us the Tupelo trees and he talked more about the impact of the river on the beekeeping industry. On the drive back to the main house, before saying goodbye, we took a short detour to a yard building where Randall showed us the equipment he uses to process, store, and bottle the honey. This equipment included a machine which would separate the honey and remove any impurities that might compromise the final product. Sadly, Randall explained it had not been used in quite some time, information we all became familiar with after conducting the interview in which he explained the reasons why he can no longer sustain living as a beekeeper.

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