It’s a pretty sweet deal when you can turn your hobby into an actual money-making business, and the Bigham family of Dimondale have done just that. Shannon, Lorrie, and their daughter, Willow own Willow Blossom Farm, which specializes in honey and honey-based products. Their sweet success allowed Lorrie to leave her job as a teacher, stay home with their young daughter, and bee-come a full-time beekeeper, she explained. Her husband works as a respiratory therapist.
It started about 13 years ago with three beehives, Lorrie stated, when they moved to Michigan from Texas. Her husband, Shannon, had learned about beekeeping from his father and taught Lorrie most of what she needed to know about bees. Willow Blossom Farms is an inspected and fully licensed facility with the state of Michigan.
Currently, the Bighams typically run between 100 and 130 hives every year, each containing between 40,000 and 50,000 bees, Bigham stated. On their own one-acre property in Dimondale, though, they only maintain six hives. The rest of the hives are spread throughout other farms in Eaton, Ingham, Clinton, and Ionia counties. This way the Bighams can offer free pollination and a little honey in exchange for a good place to keep the bees.
2020 was the year of the bear for the Bigham’s bees. Several of their hives in Clinton and Ionia counties were attacked and destroyed by bears last year. “We tried to rebuild them, but once a bear knows there’s a honey source they won’t give up,” Bigham said. Trail cams proved who did the damage. They removed the hives at night and felt like they were being watched the whole time, she said. When the bear did not get the queen bee, the attacked hives were able to survive.
Being winter, their bees are currently on a break from honey production, Bigham explained. “The male bees were kicked out in the fall,” she said, “leaving the females to eat and take care of the queen bee all winter.” Bigham is careful to leave the bees enough honey in the fall to allow them to survive the winter.
Bigham finds bees both remarkable and fun to watch. “They are totally self-sustainable and put up with us,” she said. “And I like being able to provide a healthy, quality product, and to teach people about the importance of bees and how good honey is for us.
“People might think my least favorite part about beekeeping would be bee stings, but really, it’s the wear and tear on the body. Honey is a heavy product and beekeeping as a business can be extremely exhausting, sometimes a 24/7 operation. During harvest, we sometimes go days without sleep.”
Willow Blossom Farm produces between 10,000 to 13,000 pounds of honey each year, along with about 700 pieces of comb. The honey requires being spun in a centrifuge to remove the honey from the comb which is a time-consuming endeavor.
Willow Blossom Farm products can be found year-round at Horrocks in Lansing in the bulk candy department, at the Old Town General Store in Lansing, and at the Holt Farmers Market. Seasonally, you’ll find them at the Dimondale Farmers Market, the Village Ice Cream Shoppe, and at MorningLory Café in Dimondale. They can also arrange house pickup, by appointment.
Their product list includes liquid honey in clover, buckwheat, and wildflower versions, cinnamon and plain honey crème, comb honey, chunk honey, balms and lotions, soaps, honey nuts, honey sticks, bee’s wax, and granola.
For more information about Willow Blossom Farm, visit them on Facebook at Willow Blossom Farms LLC or at Lorrie Ann Bigham’s personal page where she provides delivery updates and their market schedule. You can also call them at 517-646-0745. Willow Blossom Farm is located at 4872 North Canal Road in Dimondale, just south of the State Secondary Complex.