After completing his master’s from Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam in 2011, Curt Shade returned home and started “farming for the market” as a new income for the family farm.
“I planted my first tulip bulbs eight years ago—that spring, I planted a variety of crops to see what did best,” he explained. “I began to notice a lack of pollination, which reduced my crop yields, so I started doing research into pollinators and bees, and got in touch with a beekeeper to see if it was for me.”
Shade eventually began classes, and started out with six colonies. “That count has increased more each year, growing sustainably,” he added. “It took several seasons to master both the arts and sciences in beekeeping, from managing hives through the seasons to harvesting comb honey. I asked questions from old-time beekeepers and winged much of my first few seasons through learning by experience. So, to an extent, I’m self-taught, even self-motivated, in tending to my bees the best that I can.”
Nearly nine years later, Shade now manages several “bee yards,” or apiaries, the majority of which are kept on his family farm—where his father and uncle, both veterans, keep around 100 head of dairy cattle. “I generally keep between thirty-five and fifty hives, or colonies, at a given time. At peak season, there are millions of bees out pollinating the areas nearby. During the winter, the colony size is smaller and very efficient at clustering to conserve energy.”
Array of Products
Located in Inwood (WV), “Shade’s Farm” not only yields raw honey without GMOs or synthetics, but also produces flowers and herbs. Shade’s products are available year-round at Gower’s Feed in Ranson and Tonic Therapeutic Herb Shop and Elixir Bar in Shepherdstown. Shade himself can be found manning his interactive booth (he brings bees if the weather is warm enough), complete with an array of products, at the Shepherdstown Farmers Market every Sunday. Additionally, he’s gearing up for the Handmade Holiday Market in Shepherdstown, set for November 30 and December 14 at the Town Run Tap House and Community Pub (202 E.Washington St., Shepherdstown).
“I’m also working on an online shop—hopefully in time for the holiday season,” he maintained. “Moving forward, I expect to add more variety of produce, continuing with log-grown shiitake mushrooms, as well as cultivating earthworms for compost and possibly sale in coming seasons. I’m also hoping to offer mason bees in the future. I strive to offer products that are raised responsibly and with exceptional quality.”
For more information, find Shade’s Farm on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org.By Staff Contributor