Indigo Acres Apiary is an all-natural Hobby Farm and Beekeeping property belonging to the Shope family. Nestled in the scenic landscapes of rural Rockford, Michigan, Indigo Acres Apiary is an educational and natural passion project where “Bees come First”.
Before Indigo Acres Apiary began, Roda Shope was an elementary school teacher for the Rockford public school system. She loved especially to teach about environmentalism and the natural world around them.
“I’ve always had a passion for nature. Bringing the environment into my classrooms was very important to me, knowing the dangers of chemicals and importance of pollinators was important. But still, I’d always had this dream of having a hobby farm, becoming a beekeeper and having an apiary.”
How did it All Start?
Five years ago in 2014, Roda finally said, “Let’s do this,” and decided to follow her passion. On her Hobby Farm of 13 acres with 135 animals, Roda has since been able to create an incredible and all-natural space for any animal in need of a home.
Especially our most important pollinators – honeybees!
The amazing honeybees of Indigo Acres Apiary could not be in better hands. “Today we have seventeen hives and we continue to grow every year,” says Roda. “Our focus, how we [Indigo Acres Apiary] are a little different as an apiary, is that we specialize in pollinator gardens.”
Indigo Acres Apiary is Natural and Native!
Because bees can sometimes travel up to two miles to accumulate nectar, it’s incredibly important for Indigo Acres Apiary to plant native, organic and pollinator-friendly plants.
Not just for the honeybees, but for all species of pollinators! Local Rockford, Michigan plants such as clover are a huge staple for Indigo Acres Apiary. “We’ve done a lot of native planting, and we have specific gardens that are only for local pollinators,” says Roda. “Its important to make sure we support those local pollinators and plant things that they’re attracted to.”
“That’s been our big expansion – each year we try to create natural expansions through, say, locust trees. Last year it was our five different native clovers that we seeded and added to the clover meadow. We did it to build up those natural plants and flowers, for not only the bees, but native pollinators.”
Most importantly, Roda is very passionate about not using harsh chemicals or fertilizers in her gardens, instead opting for natural ways to remove pests and weeds. “Put down the chemicals,” she says, “and find better ways to care for the world and the pollinators around you!”
Did you Expect this to become a Business?
“I tried to let Indigo Acres become what it was going to be organically, let it be what it’s going to be on its own, which has been just a beautiful and enjoyable experience,” says Roda.
Even though their seventeen hives produce a lot of honey each year, its more than just about the small business for them. It’s about the bees!
“For most people its all about the honey, and I guess with commercial beekeeping that is the case. But for us its about supporting local pollinators. Not just for their survival but for our survival. Without honeybees and local pollinators we wouldn’t have food, we wouldn’t survive. That’s why it’s important to care for these animals and teach others about not just beekeeping, but about pollinators and what they do for us.”
Want to learn More about Bees and Beekeeping?
You’re in luck!
Indigo Acres Apiary offers hive tours and lessons about beekeeping and pollination from July to September! You can visit these amazing creatures in-person, and even get a jar of honey on your way out!
“Our Hive Experience allows you to suit up, in the safety of our provided bee suits, and enjoy the humming of thousands of honeybees, up close and personal. While exploring the inside of a hive, you will learn about the hive components, as well as the life of the honeybee colony.
We believe that one-on-one or small group instruction (2-6 individuals) is most beneficial for learning. Children are welcome, age 10+, unless other arrangements have been made with the beekeeper. Each session will last approximately 1.5 – 2 hours.”Indigo Acres Apiary offers hive tours and lessons for all ages. Check them out!
“That’s when the fun starts! Families come and suit up, we open up the hives and see where the magic happens. It’s good for kids and families and the community to understand the importance of these local pollinators. I love educating that way!”
Even though honeybees are a huge part of Roda’s life, sometimes visitors have trouble loving them immediately. “I’ve had people admit to me, ‘Roda I used to be afraid of bees, but after seeing this and your Instagram photos, it really helps,’.”
“I think honeybees are adorable,” says Roda.
I couldn’t agree more! With Queen names like “Iris”, “Lotus” or “Thelma” and “Louise”, it’s hard to be afraid of them!
Hive tours and beekeeper experiences are being snapped up fast! Make sure to book your visit soon!
All the Colors of the Rainbow!
More than just a beekeeper and caretaker of her many Hobby Farm animals, Roda is also a fantastic artist and painter, taking time out of her very few hours of daylight to create amazing masterpieces all her own! The hives themes are both colorful and nature-inspired! You’ll see flowers, leaves and even pumpkins painted upon these amazing hives!
“All the hives are thematic and painted bright colors,” says Roda. “In the clover meadow, the hives are all thematic. They’re painted based on the [honeybee] Queen’s names. We name all of our Queens so two of our hives are based on the Broadway musical Wicked. We have a Queen Elphaba and a Queen Glinda. It just adds something fun to it!”
“I paint on canvas when it’s not beekeeping season,” says Roda. “Pretty much it’s acrylic on canvas…and then I do some commission work. When I started with beekeeping, I thought ‘oh this will be a great way to use my art and make it fun for families and kids’.”
“My next series of hives will all be Star Wars-based which will be great for Bee School next year with the kids. It keeps them interested, and you know, with my elementary education background, it’s all about, not just adults and beekeeping, but kids and families involved. Not necessarily even with beginning beekeepers, but what they can do for the honeybees and their local pollinators. Even just experiencing what it’s like inside a beehive,”.
Because Indigo Acres Apiary is in Rockford, Michigan, they don’t have to worry so much about massive heat waves heating up the hives too much. In warmer areas, generally hives are kept white to keep them cooler. Instead, Roda’s hives have the luxury of looking fabulous all year round due to Rockford’s mild climate.
“We like to have them stand out – the different hives and themes,” says Roda. “It’s fun for the kids, too. And it’s fun for me!”
Roda also does commissions in the winter when she’s not working with the hives.
What’s your Favorite Part?
“I love the hive tours and the beekeeping experiences – I mean I love to paint, don’t get me wrong, it’s a passion. I love educating still, its the teacher in me, I love to see people learn and to get a fresh perspective. Then they become passionate about it, and then want to become a backyard beekeeper and you know, a mentoring program might take place,” says Roda.
“I have an observation hive for those people who are afraid and don’t want to open up the big hives where I can take the bees from my hive, slide them into the observation hive with the clear windows – for kiddos that might be afraid or families who aren’t sure about it but want to learn – they can watch the bees and watch the process, they can feel safe,” she says.
“Then they’ll say, ‘okay we’re going to come back and do the hive experience’ and then it’s the beekeeping program and then its the mentor program. It’s so fun to see over the years how people will start out and be afraid or unsure and how they grow and have this passion. It can be life changing.”
What’s Next for Indigo Acres Apiary this Summer?
“July, August and September are our huge hive tours and beekeeping sessions. This year we have added another large pollinator garden on our property. We’ve also added five new hives in that garden.”
“There’s always something going on,” says Roda. “We always say ‘this will be a non-project year’, but then its always something. Next year the plan is to add another ten to fifteen hives.”
Is anyone else Hungry for Honey?
“Bee” on the lookout for some of Indigo Acres Apiary’s amazing honey, and also be sure to check out their hive tours and beekeeping experiences. You’ll be sure to be forever changed by this amazing experience and all that the wonders of nature and local pollinators have to offer!
Most of all, remember the Indigo Acres Apiary slogan: “Plant a Flower; Save a Bee”!