Life is sweet for Orange family on their Sugaree Acre Farm
The only thing sweeter than the honey being made at Sugaree Acre Farm, is that the small business venture is a dream come true for Melissa and Ralph Marguy, whose goal is to also educate young people on the importance of bees.
“It’s important for the little ones to learn bees are our friends. We want to help put that bug in their ears,” Melissa Marguy, said. “In this ever-crazy, changing environment, they’re (the bees) at risk.”
That’s not good, she said, because, “Everything we do is based on pollination.”
The couple, who have a 4-year-old, Stella, and a 7-month-old, Archer, moved to Dogburn Road in Orange from West Haven two years ago, with an eye toward farming of some kind and beekeeping.
They have two hives on their 1.5-acre property — they are about to get a third — and seven free-range chickens who are expected to lay their all-natural first eggs soon. The eggs will be available for sale. One of their hens is “handicapped” with one toe and they joke that it is the “most expensive free chicken,” one could have, considering the veterinary bills.
The couple refers to the bees as “the girls” and the chickens as the “ladies.”
Melissa Marguy, who grew up in Bridgeport and, later, Stratford, said she’s always loved animals and bugs — she was the girl collecting them in jars — and long dreamed of having a farm. She counts a tarantula among her pets.
At some point, she developed an interest in the crisis facing bees and became “obsessed” with the winged creatures and saving them.
The bee crisis was recognized about 10 years ago when beekeepers in the United States noticed bees in hives were disappearing, according to experts.
It is believed that diesel fumes, pesticides, climate change and other stressors of industry and modern agriculture have impaired the bees’ ability to function, leading to diminishing numbers, according to bee experts.
A social worker by profession, Melissa Marguy has in recent years poured herself into the bee world, taking classes, joining Facebook groups and bee groups and doing research.
Husband Ralph, a fire inspector Yale University, followed suit, developing a passion as well.
This first year, they harvested six gallons of honey from one hive consisting of about 10,000 Italian honeybees. The family — even Stella — wear beekeeping veils and mom has a full suit.
The Marguys don’t have a store, honey stand or place to sell yet — although they sell at some farmers markets — but the couple is happy to deliver when someone puts in an order through Facebook or other social media. A two-pound jar sells for $18 and a one-pound jar for $10.
Ralph Marguy said it’s led to some good times with old friends they’ve reconnected with through delivering honey. Meetings in parking lots have led to 30-minute conversations.
“It’s cool to see it come together,” he said of the farm gig. “I didn’t realize how interesting the bees were.”
There are some people with 60 hives, Melissa said, “but that’s not what we’re going for. We’re going for that person looking to see the bees.”
The couple isn’t sure what form that education will eventually take, but for now, they are using social media, such as Facebook Live to show candidly what bees do.
In a recent Facebook post, they announced live video would be shown of them releasing “our newly installed queen” bee.
The Marguys’ bees consume pollen and nectar mostly from the wildflowers in abundance in their yard, or as they sometimes call it, their “mini-farm.”
Melissa Marguy said ideally one day they’ll have a 5-acre property with observation hives, an education program and of course, honey and eggs for sale.
They put it simply to young children like Stella by asking, “Do you like apples? When they get the answer, they point out: “Can’t have an apple without a bee.”
Ralph Marguy said, “For us, it’s all about being a family — we wanted all of us, our family, to come together on holidays.’’
A Grateful Dead fan, Melissa Marguy said Sugaree is the title of a song by the group — and yes, her daughter’s name is from a Dead song called “Stella Blue.”