The Betsy Scrivener

Ellis Farms

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Ellis Farms

Brilee Culbert, Freelance Journalist

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In the “AdVentures in Business” class at Elizabethton High School, we are encouraged to choose a certain project to work on individually. I have an interest in agriculture; I’ve lived on a small farm my whole life. I am a member of 4-H, FFA (Future Farmers of America), and FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America). My teacher, Mr. White, has encouraged me to interview a local agribusiness owner and do a newspaper article about that business and what I’ve learned from them. I’ve now decided to interview several agribusinesses and have a series in the school newspaper. My first thought was, “Who am I going to interview?” I contacted Ms. Kathleen Wilson, the Carter County Agriculture Extension Agent for some ideas. She was gracious enough to make copies of business cards she had so I could easily contact them.
This is my second article for the second agribusiness I’ve interviewed. My most recent interview was with Ellis Farms. Ellis Farms is a beekeeping business out of Kingsport, Tennessee. They make their products and sell them to local retail stores and pharmacies. For a list of locations, please visit http://ellisfarmsonline.com/locations.html. They have a variety of honeys, jams, jellies, and butters. Each item varies by location. I wanted to learn more about how they got started in the beekeeping business, how they manage it, and how they sell their products. Below it my interview with owner, Robert Ellis:
Why are you in business?
I am in business to help produce more quality products to impact people with allergies to certain things typically used in foods. I mainly use organic because a lot of honeys have corn syrup. I use 100% honey.
Why are in this type of business?
Ellis Farms is an agricultural based business.
What is your background? Education, Work Experience
I started it in my grandpa’s backyard when I was a teenager, 11 years ago. I also managed a funeral home and I worked in retail for a while.
Can you provide me with a description of your business’ mission?
Our mission statement it to provide customers with all natural products now and in the future.
How long have you been in business? In this business? In other businesses?
11 years.
What type of business form do you have, sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or an LLC?
It is currently operated as a sole proprietorship.
How did you get started in this business?
My grandfather started out with 4 bee stands, but it goes back to my great-grandfather.
How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?
You have to be a “people person” who can easily get out in the public by going to farmer’s markets with a high quality product that will get people’s attention.
How do the social, economic, environmental, technological, legal and political environments impact your business?
Environmental: Weather and pesticides can easily hurt the bees depending on the temperature. You also have to watch where your bee stands are.
Political: There are fees towards getting certified and there are taxes that affect agribusinesses through that.
How do you market your business? How are people aware of your business?
Compared to 11 years ago, when we got started, marketing has changed so much. Nowadays, people are using more social media platforms. I am currently using Facebook and Instagram to help market the business a little better.
Where do you see your business in the next year? In the next five years? The next ten years?
Next Year: I plan to reach more stores and pharmacies in our area and North Carolina to sell more products.
5-10 Years: I want to have a variety of locations throughout middle and west Tennessee and North Carolina.
Do you plan to compete in the global market place? If yes, how? If no, why not?
Not as of right now. We are a family-run business.
Why is your business located at this site?
I do not own my own storefront. We sell to retail outlets throughout the region.
Whom do you seek advice from for your business?
I seek advice from my grandfather and great-grandfather, considering they did start the business.
Do you have employees? How many?
Yes, I have seasonal employees. We are open year round.
Can you describe your management style?
I try to be stern and laid back at the same time.
What does it take to have a bee farm? Are there any regulations you have to follow?
You have to abide by logging your bees with the state and where your stands are.
How much honey is produced per bee?
Usually, there are between 15-20 gallons of honey. It depends on the size and how healthy the stand is.
How much do you sell your honey for?
One 12 ounce jar is $5. One pint is $7. One quart is $15.
Do you sell any other products?
Yes, we also have a variety of jams and jellies. We also sell apple butter.
How many customers do you typically get each day?
It varies by what each retail store is carrying at the time.

What is your most popular item you sell?
Our Blackberry Honey is definitely our best seller. It is a customer favorite.
Where is your bee farm located?
We have bee stands in Greene, Scott, and Sullivan counties in Tennessee.
How many bees do you have at your farm?
It varies between the sizes of the stand. There’s typically 1,500-2,000 bees in each stand.
How does safety work when you’re around the bees?
You can’t be allergic to bees and you also are required to wear a bonnet and a bee suit. We take safety very seriously.
Any advice for someone who may want to start beekeeping?
I would tell them to make sure to do their research and contact other bee keepers to gain knowledge.

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Ellis Farms