Menefee Family: Bar Bell Bee Ranch
Ed Menefee began his beekeeping career in 1975 and moved to Itasca County three years later. In 1981, Ed married Nancy Petersen and had two children, Natalie and Nathan. The children, while growing up, learned how to keep bees and to extract, bottle and market honey. Many friends and family, especially Nancy’s parents, Orv and Dorothy, and brother, Tim, got involved in the beekeeping operation over the years. Nancy passed away in 2001 after a lengthy battle with cancer.
In 2007, Ed married Eileen, who immersed herself in the bee business. That year Ed retired after 20 years with the Itasca County Road and Bridge Department. In the ensuing years, Eileen’s daughter, Loralie Young, has learned all about the bees and honey production and helps educate consumers.
Natalie, Nathan and Loralie all have careers of their own but they continue to support the farm. Natalie is using honey and beeswax to make cosmetics. Nathan and his wife, Carissa, have their own apiary in Grand Rapids so team with Ed on shipping for pollination and use of extraction equipment.
Bar Bell Bee Ranch is an apiary of nearly 1,000 hives producing a wide array of honey varietals and beeswax that is available in bakeries, restaurants, groceries and co-op stores in northeast Minnesota. The bees are shipped to California for almond pollination every winter. Ed rears his own queen bees from various lineages and sells nucleus colonies in the spring.
The Menefees are members of the American Bee Keeping Federation, the Bee-Informed Partnership, Minnesota Honey Producers and Minnesota Grown. They are also members of the Grand Rapids and Hibbing Farmers’ Markets.