The Secret to Success: N.C. producer transforms honey production with a helping hand

Explore Secret Garden Bees’ sweet story of growth and success in the world of honey production thanks to a vital grant from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund.

Jim Hartman, the proud owner of Secret Garden Bees, has cultivated more than just honey – he has grown a flourishing business that owes its success to the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund. As a service-disabled veteran, Hartman’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of strategic grants.

The North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund, recognizing the potential in Hartman’s venture, provided crucial financial support through the AG Prime program. This program is specifically tailored to aid farmers in the Southeast and coastal regions, and it played a pivotal role in Secret Garden Bees’ evolution.

In 2021, Hartman applied for the grant, and by 2022, his dedication bore fruit as he received the much-needed funding. This financial boost became the catalyst for significant improvements in Secret Garden Bees’ operations.

The grant facilitated the acquisition of essential equipment, including two bottling tanks and a cutting-edge filling machine. These additions not only streamlined the honey production process but also enabled Hartman to scale up his operations. Previously, packing a thousand pounds of honey required 80 hours of labor, but with the new equipment, this feat became achievable in a single day.

“The grant came at the right time for the right thing,” acknowledges Hartman, emphasizing the impact of the timely support provided by the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund.

The transformation was swift and remarkable. With enhanced capabilities and efficiency, Secret Garden Bees experienced a surge in sales. In 2021, the business recorded $1,000 in sales, a figure that skyrocketed to $10,000 in 2022, and an impressive $150,000 in 2023.

The grant not only propelled Secret Garden Bees to new heights but also expanded its reach. What started with a presence in a few local stores and festivals has now blossomed into distribution across 12 states and over 75 stores.

Hartman expresses gratitude for the grant, acknowledging that the right equipment, made possible by the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund, played a pivotal role in achieving this exponential growth. They were also named a Semi-Finalist in this year’s American Farm Bureau Federation AG Innovation Challenge! They were awarded $10,000 dollars to help further grow their honey production business.

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