The final tour of the day was in nearby Easton, where Ty and Shelly Martin’s Hillside Honey Apiary can be found in the town’s old high school. The original business, Hillside Honey, was founded by Ron and Beth Ward in 1990, who got Martin into beekeeping in 2007 after his second combat tour in Iraq. Plans for opening an indoor shooting range together fell apart when Ron was killed in an accident, Martin said.
“After I got back, I had no desire to do a gun range anymore,” he said. “We’ve always been interested in homesteading and gardening, we’ve always had chickens, and now we got into bees to take care of the garden.”
Following Ron’s death, his wife offered the business to the Martins. Overnight they went from owning three hives to 80.
At about the same time, they contacted the city of Easton about the possibility of renting out a portion of the old high school for a food cooperative to supply elderly people with fresh vegetables. It seemed like a win-win situation for everyone involved, but the city refused to consider a rental agreement. Instead, they offered to sell it to the highest bidder.
“We didn’t really want to be the owners of an old school,” Martin said. “Old schools are money pits.”
Nevertheless, they bid on the school and won. Seventeen thousand dollars got them a 90,000 square foot building with six acres. Since then, Martin learned that his initial observation was correct: “We’re about $55,000 into it now, so, yes, it’s a money pit,” he said.