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Beekeeping collective works to market West Virginia honey on world’s stage

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HINTON, W.Va. (WVVA) More than a hundred beekeepers across Southern West Virginia and Western Virginia have joined forces to make West Virginia honey a major player on the world's stage.

The Appalachian Beekeeping Collective (ABC), supported by Appalachian Headwaters, trains, supports, and provides the bees at no cost to start. The goal of the project is to also help partner beekeepers in economically stressed communities bounce back.

Terri Giles, a former aide to U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, who specializes in economic development, helped develop the project. She said eighty percent of the honey consumed in the U.S. is imported and eighty percent is just sugar water.

"Our honey comes from trees. We're the largest deciduous forest in the world so our area is well suited for it."

She works with Mark Lilly, who manages the headquarters in Summers County. He trains a new generation of beekeepers to make money through honey.

"We have mountains with trees where you can produce the best honey in the world."

After a couple hours of work each week by the beekeepers, the collective then takes, packages, and ships the honey.

"It's like thinking about wine," said Giles. When you taste honey from this part of the world, you'll never get your honey anywhere else."

But it's not just about the product, she said, it's about the people.

"People here want to continue to thrive and live as generations have done before us. We can use our heritage and the things we hold dear, the environment, so that people don't have to leave Appalachia to be successful."

ABC is hoping to add more than 20 new beekeepers this Winter. To learn more about training times and dates, visit https://www.facebook.com/appalbeecollective

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Annie Moore

Multimedia Journalist

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