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Citizen Spotlight: The Summers Family

The Summers family, Emalee, Gracee, Chris, Natalee, and Dawn (photo submitted by Dawn Summers).

Chris and Dawn Summers moved with their three girls (Emalee, Gracee, and Natalee) to a little plot of land just east of Excelsior Springs six years ago with a dream of living a self-reliant lifestyle. They started things off with a few chickens and a big garden, and then they added a few million insects to their collection, honey-bees to be exact. “Bees had always been something I wanted to try, so when we moved out here we had the opportunity to pick up some used equipment,” said Chris. After Dawn put out the word that they were looking for some honeybees, it wasn’t long before a friend reached out to them letting them know they’d found a swarm. The family headed over and found a large cluster of bees on the hitch of their friend’s pickup truck. A short while later the Summers were producing honey and they needed a name for their home-grown label. “A friend suggested Hitch Hive Honey, in honor of the first swarm, and we’ve been running with that for going on six years now,” said Dawn. 

We took a quick peek behind the scenes at Hitch Hive Honey and met some of the drones!

The bees have been a blessing for the Summers family who have all pitched in to help with the burgeoning business. But, beekeeping has especially changed the life of Natalee (14) who took a keen interest in working with the bees.  At just 12 years old, Natalee began recording short videos for the family’s YouTube channel explaining some of the tips and techniques she and her family had learned about keeping bees. Natalee’s beekeeping videos were very popular right from the start, Chris said that in a field dominated by older folks he felt like they were excited to see a young person getting so involved in the business and sharing information in a new way. Natalee said it all just started on a whim, “one day we kind of just went up and filmed a video, and I don’t think we knew where it was going.” Since then they’ve had a lot of help from the beekeeping community and the YouTube community.

Check out Natalee’s latest videos on her YouTube Channel “Beekeeping with Natalee”

With nearly 5,000 subscribers Natalee, Chris, and Dawn agreed that the YouTube channel has led to a lot of unique opportunities. “She’s making a name for herself across the country,” smiled Chris proudly, “she’s being asked to speak at different conferences and some of the conferences just want her to show up as a YouTube personality… it’s definitely opened up a lot of opportunities that we did not expect,” he said. Natalee said it can be a little frustrating trying to work bees and make videos at the same time but overall she enjoys it. “My mom does a lot of the videoing and then I do editing, dad helps with a lot of like the other stuff behind the scenes like topics and video titles,” she said.

The Summers Family of Hitch Hive Honey
Dawn, Natalee, and Chris pose for a quick pic in front of the hives (photo S Jason Cole).

They’re not just YouTube sensations, Chris said they’re looking at ways to diversify their bee business, partnering with farms to supply pollination services in Missouri and beyond. Natalee said she sees beekeeping as more than a hobby, she wants to make it a career. This spring she started taking online classes in the Master Beekeeping Program at the University of Florida, a four-year certification program managed by the University of Florida Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory. Locally you can find Hitch Hive Honey at Muffin Top Bakery, Other Trails Coffee Shop, and Pairings by Van Till’s Winery feature Hitch Hive Honey in some of their menu items. 

When they’re not tending their homestead the family enjoys spending time at the Excelsior Springs Community Center or attending church. With roots that go back “pretty deep in Excelsior Springs, with great, great grandparents and beyond,” Chris said they’ve jumped right into the community.  Chris has gotten involved with the Fishing River Running Club, Dawn takes and teaches classes at the Community Center, Emalee works at K-9 Clips, Gracee works at the Community Center, and Natalee stays busy with her bees. “When we first moved back the Community Center is how we really plugged in and met a lot of people,” said Chris.  “I would encourage people who are either new to the community or aren’t very involved to plug in somewhere, whether it’s the community center or a club or something because it really does expand the people that you know, and makes life more enjoyable,” added Dawn. 

Learn more about Hitch Hive Honey at their website.

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