Removing caps by hand takes a lot of time, said Buddy DePew, co-owner of Sequim Bee Farm. If the farm wins $20,000 in the Kitsap Bank edg3 FUND contest, the funds will go toward automating the process. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Removing caps by hand takes a lot of time, said Buddy DePew, co-owner of Sequim Bee Farm. If the farm wins $20,000 in the Kitsap Bank edg3 FUND contest, the funds will go toward automating the process. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Sequim Bee Farm up again for Kitsap Bank award

SEQUIM — Bees have been flying around in Buddy and Meg DePew’s mind for years.

For Buddy, it began with an unusual encounter 30 years ago while working as a security guard in Seattle. A call came in, he said, for a large group of bees on top of the parking garage.

“I go look and sure enough, a swarm of bees happened to be lying on my truck,” he said.

DePew said he called a beekeeper whom he watched take the bees, and “I’ve had an interest ever since.”

He and his wife Meg, a psychiatric nurse practitioner for Peninsula Behavioral Health, began beekeeping as hobbyists about 14 years ago. Meg DePew said she had always thought of beekeeping too, prompting them to join and take lessons with the North Olympic Beekeepers Association.

In 2014 the pair started Sequim Bee Farm, which has now grown to the point where the DePews hope they can automate more of the process to grow their business.

And, for the second time in three years, they’ve been selected as finalists in Kitsap Bank’s edg3 FUND Small Business Competition.

On Thursday, Meg DePew will speak before judges at the Kitsap Conference Center in Bremerton — similar to the show “Shark Tank,” she said — as she makes her case for $20,000. The edg3 FUND competition, however, includes a live audience.

Sequim Bee Farm competes along with Chimacum’s Kodama Farm & Food Forest, Bremerton’s Wood Originals, Port Orchard’s Compost Manufacturing Alliance and Renton’s HandiMaps.

Meg DePew said the business got great exposure as a semi-finalist in 2016 with the bank producing a professional commercial for them; a second one was recently filmed, too.

“We didn’t win, but we never lost,” she said.

Meg DePew said the competition has improved every year.

“They’re not going to go wrong picking any one of the five of us,” she said.

In 2016, the DePews were victims of significant vandalism where 20 of their hives were killed at their home.

Meg DePew said they didn’t apply for the competition in 2017 because they thought they’d still be recovering.

“But we’ve gone way beyond,” she said.

This year the DePews oversaw more than 80 hives in the area, and Sequim Bee Farm’s honey can be found in stores in three counties. The couple also split their time selling at both Sequim and Port Angeles farmers markets.

Along with growing sales, the couple won multiple awards including a 2018 Good Food award for its Snowberry rose honey. It’s their third year in a row winning an award from the Good Food Foundation.

“We’re developing quickly and people look for our honey,” Meg DePew said.

Sequim Bee Farm also continues to help Sequim’s lavender industry thrive.

In recent years, Buddy DePew has taken over bee handling for nine lavender farms, including Purple Haze Lavender Farm, Jardin du Soleil Lavender Farm, Cedarbrook Lavender & Herb Farm, Sunshine Herb & Lavender Farm, B&B Family Farm, Washington Lavender Farm, Lost Mountain Lavender Farm and Fat Cat Garden & Gifts. He recently added Meli’s Lavender Farm.

Buddy DePew said his friend Ed Giersch, owner of Lavender Skep Apiary, wanted to scale back and brought him in to take on the lavender aspect of beekeeping.

He continues to ready each farm’s honey for future products.

As a small business, the DePews said winning $20,000 could save time and money.

“If we were to finance automation ourselves, it’d be four or five years to get everything we’d need to get,” Meg DePew said.

Equipment for making and extracting honey is costly, the couple said, and finding good, used equipment is practically nonexistent as you have to be careful for diseases and other issues.

Buddy DePew said he’s limited with his time supervising the bees because capping, or extracting the honey, takes him so long by hand.

“We’re still doing it a lot of the time the old-fashioned way,” Meg DePew said.

“There’s an external limitation to us, and he’s still taking all of the cappings off by hand. [Kitsap Bank] wants a company to make a huge impact for, and [the money would] make a huge impact for us.”

Along with Thursday’s competition, the DePews plan to sell honey at various bazaars throughout the winter.

For more information or to make an order, call 360-460-2341 or visit www.sequimbeefarm.com.

________

Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

Buddy DePew watches as a beekeeper safely removes honey bees from his truck 30 years ago from a parking garage in Seattle. DePew said the incident may have helped lead to his interest in beekeeping.

Buddy DePew watches as a beekeeper safely removes honey bees from his truck 30 years ago from a parking garage in Seattle. DePew said the incident may have helped lead to his interest in beekeeping.

For many lavender farms, Buddy DePew continues to handle and care for their bees so that he can process their honey for future products. He now cares for nine lavender farms’ honey bees as Sequim Bee Farm. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

For many lavender farms, Buddy DePew continues to handle and care for their bees so that he can process their honey for future products. He now cares for nine lavender farms’ honey bees as Sequim Bee Farm. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

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