‘We Are the Steppingstone’: First-Generation Black Beekeepers Work to Change the Face and Negative Perceptions of the Industry

The Atlanta backyard of first-generation beekeepers Lloyd and Ashley Hardrick is bustling with energy from dozens of busy honeybees. The Black parents started their own beekeeping business, Honey Bee Goode Apiaries, from their home in 2015, and they’ve grown from one hive to 20 since then. The couple invited Atlanta Black Star for an up-close-and-personal look at how bees help our environment. The Hardricks, who are parents to daughters Lennox and Logan and one son, Lloyd II, said that one bee can produce a tablespoon of honey in its lifetime.

“They hit 100 flowers before they bring that nectar back to the hive, and that nectar along with the bee saliva — they keep churning that and it turns into honey,” Ashley Hardrick said.

She and their husband Lloyd, who own Honey Bee Goode Apiaries together, weren’t always beekeepers. Her background is in political science while he is a U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq. The couple reveals a tragic personal loss led to their career changes.

“I believe it really began with our son Landon passing in 2014, and we had a different outlook on life,” Ashley Hardrick said. “We already surrounded ourselves by a circle of friends that are farmers, people that are growing their own food, so as soon as my husband came to me and said, ‘Hey, this is something that I’m interested in and we should look into,’ we did our research and looked up the importance of honeybees.”

The Hardricks didn’t let inexperience stop them. They shared that they’re expanding their bee farm business while solidifying a future for their surviving children. “This is generational wealth; we have three beautiful children now, so this is for them,” Ashley Hardrick said.

The entrepreneurs recognize the reality that there aren’t a lot of Black beekeepers in the metropolitan Atlanta area, but lack of exposure might be why they’re so hard to find.

“It’s something that’s believed that’s only in rural areas and that’s just not true,” Lloyd Hardrick said. He added that people in the Black community don’t always understand what beekeepers do.

“When we tell people what we do, their first instinct is, ‘what’s that?,’ so we’re trying to change our culture; farmers, beekeepers and people that feed us just need to be more exposed to our community,” Lloyd Hardrick said. The father added that while he may be one of the first Black beekeepers you meet, he won’t be the last. “We are the steppingstone of generations behind us,” he said.

Ashley Hardrick outlined what the two consider to be health benefits of honey — such as for being a soothing treatment for eczema; she also pointed out that honey is anti-inflammatory in nature, while also being good for the scalp. “Honey is not only good for the body, but it’s great for the hair, so we have a lot of clients that put it in their hair for growth,” she said.

Humans also rely on bee pollination for much of their food. “When we go to the grocery store and we see a bunch of apples, those apples were flowers not too long ago, and the bees have a direct result of pollination; pollination keeps us alive,” Lloyd Hardrick said.

The Hardricks said they aim to help spread as much knowledge as they can about the essential role of bees by connecting with the youth. “We go to our community and we talk to the children about the importance of honeybees and why they’re so important,” Ashley Hardrick said.

“You should not be afraid of them, because that’s the persona that they get now is, ‘oh, bees; well, I’ve been stung by a bee before.’ so we’re wanting to change that whole focus,” she added.

By spring, Ashley and Lloyd Hardrick plan to expand Honey Bee Goode Apiaries from their home to a location on between seven to 15 acres of land. The entrepreneurs said they expect to have about 40 additional beehives at that time.

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