Wayward Hill Farm, RCFM Verified Grower
Our next verified grower visit toke us outside of Belpre Ohio, to Wayward Hill Farm. At first glance this farm seems like all the others, with livestock grazing the fields, the welcoming committee of ducks, and trees thoughtfully planted for the future. But as the name implies farming is difficult to control, so armed with a strong sense of humor, determination and a devotion to agriculture this couple has created an amazing haven in the hills of Belpre.
At the market, Nat and Melissa are the go-to honey folks, from combs, candy, raw or flavored honey they can chat about nature’s sweetest product! They make it look easy, with pride in their product, cute packaging and charming honey bear bottles, but at the farm they maintain a dance with nature, balancing the art and science of beekeeping.
Nat oversees the bee operation, from Nucs to honey extraction. He patiently awaits winters end to work the hives, dawning the infamous suit to maintain 78 hives! Working the bees is a sensory experience in itself, from feeling the rumble of the wings, the sound of busy bees around you to the sweet smell of honey and wax. The bees are so content with their farm life even the boxes being prepped for the season are a flourish of activity with a swarm moving in early, not waiting for the invite. These little creatures are fascinating with their wing-powered cooling system and their waggle dance, we understand the passion Nat has for the pollinators of our world.
Working the bees is only half the battle, collecting, extracting and bottling honey is a sweet, gooey and hot job. But these two work to create a product that they are proud of, capturing the flavors of the seasons through the ever changing colors of honey products.
he fields are grazed by beef cattle, eager to greet you at the fence line but the true divas of these pastures are the sheep. In all fairness, our visit was during lambing season and cuteness overload! But these herds are overseen with such care and diligence. With barn additions, cameras to monitor lambing season and equipment designed to make manicures stress free for the sheep and the farmer. Despite all the “modern gadgets” the herd roams lush pastures with traditional farming values. Lambs are born and raised on the farm to offer locally raised products for your families dining experience. Nat and Melissa’s passion for agriculture and determination to improve each aspect of their farm, with a respect for nature and future innovations is awe inspiring.
Most farms in the valley have fruit trees and berry bushes, but with Nat’s green thumb, he pushes the boundaries of what can grow in the valley. Their bedroom converts into a makeshift greenhouse to nurture loofas and okra through Ohio’s cool spring. There are small groves of trees throughout the farm, plums, peaches and apples work alongside the bees to provide sweet treats both on the tree and in the hives. The pride for this farmer is the small grove of trees that stand out front, at first glance they could be any fruit trees, but on closer inspection small almonds proudly hang from the limbs. This rare find in the mid-Ohio valley is testament to their care and determination to create their ideal sanctuary even though it has earned its Wayward title at times.
Stop by the market to talk honey, lamb, beef, eggs and more with Nat and Melissa. They will be returning in June with spring honey from Wayward Hill Farm and make sure you ask about the Waggle dance!