CHARLOTTE – Midland resident Eric Carter has been a beekeeper for as long as he can remember. “My grandfather back in his day had over 300 hives,” recalls Carter, who helped his grandfather with the bees as a young child. “At five or six years old, there wasn’t much I could do because most of the beekeeping equipment is heavy, and a five-year-old has no attention span!” laughs Carter. “I started out tagging along and shooting lizards with a BB gun so they didn’t eat the bees.”
In their heyday, Carter’s grandfather’s hives stretched from the coast to the mountains, but as he aged, the physical labor of running a commercial and residential tree service during the week and keeping bees on the weekend wore on him. He concentrated his hives in the Piedmont area and worked them until he passed away at the age of 76.
Meanwhile, Carter spent nine years in the navy as a missile technician. When he returned home in 2017, his intention was to continue learning the art of beekeeping from his grandfather. Unfortunately, Carter’s grandfather passed away that same year.
“Since then, I’ve just taken over,” says Carter. When Carter took over the apiary, his grandfather’s hives, which once numbered in the hundreds, had dwindled to only five or six. Employing the knowledge he gleaned from his grandfather and learning on the job, Carter has expanded to 30 hives over the past four years scattered from highway 74 in Matthews up to Albemarle Road.
“You can run 100 hives in one location, but all my hives are kept on other farmers’ property,” says Carter, who lives in a traditional housing development that bars him from keeping too many hives on his own property. “It benefits the farmers as well; the bees will pollinate their crops and gardens.”
Here in the Piedmont area of NC, bees make most of their honey off poplar and maple trees. In fact, the red maple blooming in the next few weeks will “kickstart” the bees, leading Carter into the “spring flow.” Beginning in mid-to-late- April and running through mid-to late-May, this is when he will collect the bulk of his honey.
This spring, Carter plans to add 15 more hives to his apiary. Eventually, he’d like to have 100-150, but he’s committed to expanding gradually, splitting his own hives instead of purchasing. “I could dump a bunch of money into buying bees from SC and GA to speed up the process,” says Carter. “But I’d rather have ‘homegrown’ NC bees.”
Carter sells his honey out of his home as well as locally at Mint Hill Roasting Company. In the spring and summer, he’s at the Mint Hill Farmer’s Market every Saturday, and this May you’ll also find his honey at Hillbilly Jay’s new produce stand next to Perry’s Marketplace.
“My honey is 100% pure,” says Carter. “I take it from the frame, bring it home, and put it in my extractor. It goes from the extractor into a bucket, and from there I put it into a jar. It’s 100% raw honey, nothing added. The only time I feed my bees is in an emergency,” continues Carter. “Some beekeepers take all the honey and feed them sugar water. I like them to live off of what they make themselves. I only take their extra.”
“A lot of my repeat customers come back and say it’s the best they’ve ever had!” says Carter. If you’re interested in buying 100% pure and local honey from a family-owned, veteran-owned business, give Eric Carter a call at (336) 870-2689. You can also follow Carter Family Bees on Facebook.
This is the first article in a series that will endeavor to introduce our local farms and farmers. Last week, we took a closer look at Hillbilly Jay’s. Tune in next week to learn more about Monroe-based DabHar Farms!