July 12, 2021
Santiago and Julie Valdez say the Heroes to Hives program offered by University of Missouri Extension offers a sweet opportunity to expand their business and connect with other beekeepers who are veterans.
MU’s Heroes to Hives program launched in 2020 and is the first state chapter in Missouri. The free program provides online and hands-on learning for veterans who want to learn beekeeping.
Heroes to Hives taught the Valdezes about the equipment and methods to safely harvest honey and beeswax. They say the class also helped them learn how beekeeping differs by geographic region.
The couple now sells homemade organic candles and bath and personal care items in grocery stores, boutiques, online and at farmers markets. Their Raw Buzz products come from a hive in their backyard and one at Julie Valdez’s family farm, where she also gets goat milk for products. About 50 stores — including some Hy-Vees — now carry their products.
While the Valdezes are using their new knowledge to fuel a small business, Santiago Valdez says the Heroes to Hives program is more about making connections with other veterans than classroom work.
“Being around other beekeepers who are willing to share advice is amazing,” he said. “And they are all veterans, so there is a connection I can’t describe. When you leave the military, people miss the camaraderie. Heroes to Hives brings veterans together in another community. It’s just a good recipe.”