Beekeeper Turns Hobby Into Blossoming Business
Ten years after launching with a single hive, the founder and sole employee of Hardwood Honey is the beekeeper behind the honey for many of central Indiana’s top restaurants and venues. For 35-year-old Ross Harding, what started out as a hobby has blossomed into a full-blown bee business with more than 30 beehive locations around Indy. “I kind of built it slowly while I still had my job, but still, it was a leap,” Harding said.
In an interview with Around INdiana Reporter Mary-Rachel Redman, Harding said his process is literally hive-to-table.
“Once all the bees are off of [the honeycomb], I just bring the box straight from the yard into the restaurant and cut the comb fresh. It’s still warm,” said Harding.
Over the decade he has been in business, Harding has brought his honey to a number of restaurants in the region, including Bluebeard Indy, Le Meridien Hotel, Milktooth and Gallery Pastry Shop. He says many of the restaurants operated by Cunningham Restaurant Group, as well as Patachou Inc. founder Martha Hoover, are also customers.
“They share honey and comb at all the restaurants they own. It’s been a great partnership, so I take care of the bees for Martha at her house,” Harding said.
And the hive at Hoover’s house is just one many individual hives Harding manages.
“I had people reach out and they’d say, ‘I’d really like some beehives on my property, but I just don’t have the time’ or ‘I’m scared.’ So, I’ve arranged a partnership with private individuals where I’ll take care of the bees. I’ll bring them bees and they actually get all the honey.”
Harding has also partnered with Indiana-based Madisons Reserve, owned by former NFL long snapper Andrew East and his wife, former Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson East.
“I’m their number one supplier of honey. They love what I’m doing, so it’s something that we kind of co-brand and have products,” said Harding.
From whipped honey to black walnut honey butter, Harding says he’s constantly crafting new concoctions. He says the demand for Indiana honey is fascinating.
“People really demand local honey. People have learned that the honey you’re buying from your normal grocery store, it doesn’t have all the same things. They’ve heated it. They’ve pressure filtered it. It doesn’t have the enzymes, the pollen. So, I’ll do my part as long as the bees do theirs.”