Elkwood has a population of 422 people, and 2 of them are Teresa and Jeff Gregson, who run the 43 acre Bees and Trees Farm. We had a wonderful time at our harvest party there, and source our honey from the farm as well. Surrounded by beautiful forest and green land with a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s no surprise that the Gregsons fell in love with the land. As the name suggests, Bees and Trees farm focuses on 2 things: producing honey and christmas trees. Alongside, they also have a chicken coop and run for the 14 hens that lay organic eggs. 3 baby goats (Ariel, Sebastian and Flounder) a mule (Pippy Long Ears) and 5 cows complete the farm family.
After working as lobbyists in Richmond, VA, they became burnt out and decided they wanted to spend the rest of their life doing something they loved. After doing a one year apprenticeship with the previous land-owners to keep the christmas tree business going, they decided to expand to beekeeping and agritourism.
They have about 3500 trees this year, ranging from canaan fur trees, to scotch pines, white pines and devil’s fur. Each tree has a different characteristic. Some have stronger branches, some smell more like pine, and some are more perfectly shaped. A tree takes about 8-1o years to grow, and the blackjack soil that the farm is on makes it difficult in certain spots for the trees to flourish. In some places the soil is rocky and stays wet, so it’s a process of figuring out where the trees can grow best.
Teresa has always loved bees. She has always been fascinated by bees and honey and wanted to be included in the bee world. Her favorite part of the movie Fried Green Tomatoes was the part when Idgie Threadgoode grabbed wild honey out of the hollow in a tree! The idea that some folks were ‘charmers’–able to speak the bee’s language and with a naked arm, remove their honey-rich comb without being stung–was just magical to her. She was hooked, and knew that once she retired on the farm bees would be a part of her life there.
Currently she has 3 hives, and is in the process of getting 6-7 more this spring. She doesn’t treat her bee hives with any pesticides, because she wants them to be as natural as possible. However this does make the bees easily susceptible to pests, and Teresa has lost hives due to pest infestations. Another danger that the bees face are the neighboring fields, where the farmers use pesticides on their plants which is toxic for the bees. If they fly over there, they usually don’t return.
A healthy hive can produce about 60 lbs of honey, but Teresa’s hives produce around 40 lbs. Teresa is still new at beekeeping, and her natural approach leads to bees being more exposed to environmental factors which in turn decreases the number of bees. She’s optimistic for next spring though, and is learning a great deal along the process.
Teresa and Jeff love visitors, and their farm is open Wednesday-Sunday 10 am- 4 pm during the christmas season. Shop for eggs, Christmas ornaments and holiday decor, as well as fresh greenery and yummy canned goods.