Family bzzz-ness: Meet the family running an urban honey company out of their Capitol Hill apartment
Bob Redmond and son Japhy weigh jars of honey for Urban Bee Company.
Photo: Joshua Huston
Bob Redmond, Amy Baranski and their 3-year-old son Japhy live in a three-bedroom apartment in a 100-year-old building in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. The apartment doubles as their family home and the honey hub to the Urban Bee Company, which Redmond founded in 2009. The Urban Bee Company fosters healthy local beehives in a variety of locations, including 15 local apiaries in community farms; manages the beehives for The Common Acre (which Redmond also runs); creates permaculture bee gardens; and operates a small-scale honey manufacturing and distribution company — all right out of the family home!
Redmond began in the bee business in 2008, when he started a few hives in several local backyards. Since space was scarce, he biked to and from the hives, gradually expanding to new spaces. The Urban Bee Company thrived on the offering of community space and now boasts the motto “Community Through the Hive.”
The trio has been churning out sustainable honey, working within nearly carbon-neutral parameters. Recently, the apartment’s power source was switched from electricity to wind power, with the capacity to extract and process honey sustainably. “When we're extracting honey (cutting the caps off of the combs and spinning the frames in the extractor), the whole apartment smells like honey and bees come, curious, to the window screens,” says Redmond. After the honey is bottled, most of the direct delivery is by way of the “Beecycle,” a pedal bike built by Bombus Bikes.
Three-year-old Japhy has his own important duties around the family hive, helping bottle honey and riding his own “Beecycle.” “Having a child has helped me prioritize going slow, and finding a renewed depth of curiosity in my work. If it's interesting to him, chances are it's worthwhile,” says Redmond. Japhy also knows a good deal about bees and their interactions with flowers, including being able to identify honeybees, bumblebees and yellow jackets. His favorite task is extracting honey, which involves spinning wooden frames. “He's pretty good at doing the last spin on the extractor, if I stand him on top of a bucket to reach it,” says Redmond. “With his safety glasses on, he helps use the drill or hammer on woodenware, and do all manner of things, like scrape boxes and help pick out the best music.”
Asked if they have any advice for amateur beekeepers, Redmond says, “My advice would be — whether it’s urban agriculture or something else — spend as much time together as a family and community as possible. Each day is always the best day when we can do that.”
All photos by Joshua Huston.