Commercial beekeepers Jackie and Fred Merriam are trucking about 800 hives to the White River Valley from their apiary in Georgia.
That’s a lot of honeybees.
The hives, being off-loaded in a field on Slack Hill in Randolph, are hard to miss. They are painted every color of the rainbow.
“We use miss-tints to save on cost,” explains Jackie at the loading site as rain falls, Tuesday. Miss-tints. paints rejected by customers, can be picked up for pennies on the dollar.
Standing together in a field awaiting dispersal, the multi-colored hives take on the appearance of an art installation, perhaps by Kurt Schwitters or Mondrian before he settled on a more limited palette of just red, yellow, blue black, and white.
Before the Bees
Each installation is surrounded by electric fencing, to keep bears at bay. (Herald / Bob Eddy)
Jackie, a LaRocque, graduated from RUHS in 1997. A horse rider and driver, she met Fred, a native of Bridgewater, quite by accident. He was building and repairing carriages in Bridgewater, and Jackie had a driving misadventure, resulting in need for repair of her rig. Her Brookfield neighbor, Charlie Ballou, recommended Bridgewater Carriage, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Together, Fred and Jackie moved the carriage business to Snowsville. For several years they did quite well, but the recession in 2008 changed all that.
Bees, Bees, & More Bees
An avocational interest in beekeeping proved the perfect next business. Five years ago, the enterprising husband and wife team began producing honey commercially as West Meadow Apiary.
The business has expanded every year. At present the Merriams have apiaries in Collins, Ga., and Tunbridge, Vt., with 880 hives in production and 440 nucs, new hives ready for production. West Meadow sells nucs as well as queen bees raised by Jackie from hives proven to have high tolerance to mite diseases which can decimate a colony.
Along the way, Fred and Jackie have grown their own family. There are nine children in all, ranging in age from 16 down to just nine months — boys outnumbering girls six to three.
West Meadow Apiary is busy transporting their hives from Georgia to Vermont, where they will happily spend the next six months pollinating throughout the region and, hopefully, producing tons of delicious honey in the bargain.
West Meadow Apiary
A day with the Merriams reveals they share valuable traits with their winged workers. They are incredibly hard workers and have developed a remarkably efficient operation.
The hives are commercially transported via tractor-trailer from Georgia and off-loaded at a staging area on farm land on Route 66 just below Exit 4, I-89.
From there, the Merriams load the hives, four to a pallet, onto their flat bed truck. They are tied down and trailered, with the skidsteer in tow, to a site provided by a land-owner amenable to having honey bees in the neighborhood.
The hives are off-loaded and sited, on their pallets, in a spot that will get good sun for a portion of the day. The site is weed-whacked, and a solar powered electric fence is installed to discourage bears. With Jackie, Fred, and their eldest son, Aidan, working together, the installation takes a bit less than an hour.
Then, the bees take over. Day in and day out, throughout the summer and early fall, they will help pollinate our region’s abundant landscape, producing exceptional honey in the bargain.