Have your heard the one about the guy who...
Quick with a joke, a handshake or a smile, Mike didn't meet many strangers. He was the kind of guy that would greet his great grandkids with a cookie and a story with a punchline as unique as their personality. He was the kind of guy who never forgot a favor. He was the guy who gave without question and exuded fairness in every action. He was the guy who could think outside of the box with flawless logic. So in his honor, kick back and let me tell you the one about the guy who tended the bees.
Mike was born in 1938 and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. As a boy, he would help his Aunt Gussie tend to her beehives. Later, as young man with a growing family, Mike bought his own first hive of bees from Aunt Gussie. For almost ten years, he tended his hives as a hobby while working and caring for his growing family.
Pictured: Mike was featured in Lake City's Family Magazine in 2019
The Bee Man
From Hobby to Career...
In the mid 60's, a partnership was formed between Mike and two other hobby beekeepers. This partnership (located at the time in Jacksonville, Florida) consisted of just over 600 colonies of honey bees. Although small, the trio helped to expand the North Florida honey business.
In 1967, Mike's bees became more than a hobby. He made the life changing decision to move his young family to rural Lake City, Florida, where he took over a small apiary. It wasn't long before he was able to buy out the partnership, expanding the bee business to roughly 1,600 colonies of honey bees. Thomas Honey Company sold honey and beeswax sourced from wild forest growth in North Florida and the orange groves of Central Florida. These products were the foundation on which Mike built his business.
Pictured: Uncapped frames, full of honey, headed for processing.
North Dakota Clover
A small rural town with a heart of gold...
Thomas Honey expanded again in 1974, when Mike and the family began spending summers in North Dakota to take advantage of pollination contracts in the abundant clover fields. After purchasing a building for honey production, and eventually a small house across the street, the Thomas family had found their second home. Since then, the family has annually loaded and hauled bees to a small town called Turtle Lake, where they are able to harvest clover honey.
In the spring of 2002 Mike's grandson-in-law and granddaughter took over the North Dakota honey business and continue to run it successfully today. The two have carried on traditions in more ways than one, making their home and raising their family in Turtle Lake.
Pictured: Mason Maxwell's impeccably clean hives show off their work ethic , staying as busy as ever.
A Family Affair
Decades of family operation...
Today much of the family remains involved in the business in some capacity, from managing the daily office chores, lending a hand with the Web site you're viewing, bottling and distributing the honey produced, helping out at special events, or the annual migration to and from North Dakota. Three generations of the Thomas Family are currently a part of producing Thomas Honey, with the fourth generation in training.
Active in the industry until he left us earlier this year, Mike left a legacy one of Florida's longest standing keeper of the bees. Until his last days, you may have found him having lunch at Milton's, or tending the booth at the county fair, but you would always...always find him with family and wearing a smile. If you were lucky, you might be able to relay a joke he shared - and if you DO, send it to us so we can keep his joyful attitude alive and bring laughs and fond memories!
Pictured: Morgan Maxwell, Mike's great-grandson is passionate about helping his dad in the bee yards.