AFB Ag Innovators: Veteran highlighted for dedication to sustainable, debt-free honey farming

Honey farmer Jim Hartman’s is being highlighted by the American Farm Bureau for his dedication to agricultural sustainability. Learn about his unexpected journey from combat veteran to beekeeper to an AFB Ag Innovator semi-finalist.

Jim Hartman, the founder of Secret Garden Bees, carved a unique path in agriculture that embodies innovation, sustainability, and veteran support. As a semi-finalist in the American Farm Bureau AG Innovation Challenge, Hartman shares his inspiring journey and vision for a debt-free, environmentally conscious honey farm.

Hartman’s unexpected journey into beekeeping and agriculture is deeply personal. Retiring from 10 years of service as a combat veteran, including two tours in Iraq, he turned to beekeeping as a means of coping with anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after reading studies about beekeeping and its therapeutic effects on anxiety. He found that beekeeping demanded focus, calm, and being present in the moment, providing an effective way to manage his conditions.

At the heart of his proposition for the AG Innovation Challenge is the concept of a small honey farm that operates without debt while striving for net-zero energy consumption.

Hartman’s dedication to sustainability is evident through his installation of solar panels around this farm that create more than 14 kilowatts of clean energy—not only reducing energy costs but also increase environmental stewardship by harnessing renewable energy. However, his commitment to sustainability extends beyond energy practices.

He also dedicates time to up-cycling government surplus materials in order to reduce waste and production costs, effectively keeping these items out of landfills. Secret Garden Bees operates entirely debt-free, even when it comes to acquiring supplies and feed, and presents a workable model that prioritizes both financial responsibility and environmental sustainability in agriculture.

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