Beekeeping and Wetlands conversion for Fun and Profit

  1. Many states have a right to farm act for beekeeping.
  2. Many states offer agricultural use tax exemptions for land dedicated to agricultural use.
  3. Wetlands are cheap.
    What happens when you combine all three?
    A USE for wetlands that won’t infringe on Section 404 and will get you an apiary site that is protected from zoning regulations with a handy tax exemption!

Case in point: 2 minutes from my home, in an adjacent subdivision, there are unbuildable wetlands at a super cheap price (<10K). I can place beehives on the 2 acre parcel, and with the honey yield alone I’ll have the land paid off in 4 years.

In the meantime, I can get a delineation and professional wetlands survey done (for approx $500-$1200), and then file a fill permit request for a small portion (up to 1/3rd acre) to build a home. Suddenly, the land is worth $50-$80,000 because it is buildable.

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How are you getting permission to build on a wetlands designated parcel?

I’m not building.
I’m running an apiary, which means I’m placing hives out in the land. There is no fill or building required to do so. I also contacted regulatory authorities for a (non-jurisdictionally binding) statement, and got it in writing.) The consensus was that because there’s no fill or building, there’s no permit required under Section 404.

BUT,
While I’m running the apiary, I’m going to submit a permit application for fill. IF the permit is approved, then I can build. At that point, the land value skyrockets.

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Ok, I think I am missing how you plan to get the build permit approved. Does the apiary give the land some status that let’s it be built on, why wouldn’t the permission authority just look and say “wetlands, denied” for your build request?

Of course wetlands with an apiary sounds like it would be solid business in any case, and preserve wetlands and help bees and the environment

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I see. I wasn’t clear about that point— the wetlands approval is an aspirational goal. Not a certainty. But If your fill permit request is reasonable, balanced against a list of factors that the EPA publishes, there’s a fair chance they’ll allow it.
See for example:

This is an interesting thread. I would comment just to get the update alerts. However, I am curious about your experience so far:

Have you contacted the land owner about purchasing?

Would you buy with an apiary approval contingency.

Do you have any bee keeping experience?

What do you estimate the setup cost for this type of operation would be?

I have done the legal research (I’m an attorney with some skill in legal research).
I’ve contacted the owner, but I haven’t disclosed my intended use.
The particular plot of land I’m looking at has some non-wetlands, but not enough to build anything on. I’ll know more if/when I get a delineation. I have beekeeping experience- I maintain about 12 hives as a hobby. I’d be doubling the number of hives. And because the land is 2 minutes from my home, I’d have them all in one place, unlike present.

Land acquisition cost will vary, but the investment payoff could be large if you secure a fill permit. If you don’t, you would then have the burden of conveying the land to someone else, assuming you couldn’t put it to use in some other limited fashion. (Cell tower permits are another option.)
I estimate that my total costs for land and additional beekeeping supplies is around 15K.

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Thanks for the response!

Your project sounds very interesting. It would be great to hear more if you continue to pursue it. As someone that has kept bees, you may have read about cell towers causing problems for bees (https://www.google.com/search?q=honey+bee+cell+phone+towers&oq=honey+bee+cell+phone&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j0l5.13289j1j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8). Maybe don’t mix the two!

Where we live, northern Virginia, there’s an entire business revolving around wetlands acquisition, preservation, management, restoration, and the credits that attach thereto.

http://www.wetlandstudies.com/nvsrb/

Also, because of Chesapeake Bay preservation ordinances, many homeowner associations are required to source and maintain stormwater management systems. In Washington, DC itself, the city is working on mitigating the damage its combined sewer system causes. As part of that process, wetlands have become very valuable resources as they are used to reduce or eliminate some of the enormous buried tunnels DC is building.

http://www.wetlandstudies.com/dc-water-lid/

https://www.dcwater.com/clean-rivers-project

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Wetlands mitigation banking is an area I’d like to know more about. I suppose someone’s making money off of it.

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If you aren’t a beekeeper yourself, are there opportunities in renting out the land to one?

You might be able to find a beekeeper or two, but they probably wouldn’t pay much. The advantage to renting your land out might come in receiving an agricultural use tax exemption or a small annual payment from the beekeeper to help offset property taxes.

There’s been a notable rise of interest in urban beekeeping, and for those people without adequate backyards, I can see a market. Finding those people might be a challenge unless you go to local bee clubs or post on bee club web sites. Craigslist is another option.

But again, I can’t imagine you’d get much for it- keep in mind that many beekeepers supplement their income with pollination contracts where the farmers pay the beekeeper.

I was expecting TripleB when I saw the title…

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I’m an old FWF. Of course, it’s a recognized motif for strange but possibly money-generating ideas.

Btw, depending on your state’s laws, you may be able to avoid an uncapping event in the purchase if you agree with the landowner to farm (keep bees) on the land prior to purchase. In my state, it’s May 1st. So if the landowner is willing, I could put hives out prior to May 1 (and prior to purchase) and let the owner claim the agricultural use exemption. Then I could purchase the property and there’s no uncapping event.

As a 16 year beekeeper that quit last year due to high bee mortality rates, high equipment costs and suppressed honey prices due to the cheap China honey in supermarkets. I do not see the yield you expect.

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I appreciate your comment, and my sympathies for your beekeeping losses.

In defense of my position, I’d first state that the real money comes from reselling land that is approved for building.

Honey yield is difficult to predict, as are honey prices.
Of approximately 25 hives, I estimate (by sticking my finger in the wind) that only half will yield honey, and the others will only make enough to maintain for overwintering. Of that half, I estimate that the yield/hive will average around 3.5 gallons / hive. 3.5 gal honey *12 hives = 42 gal honey. 42 gal honey is 504lbs

As of Dec 22, 2017, the USDA bulk honey prices are listed in price/lb at https://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/fvmhoney.pdf.
From that table, you’ll see that the average bulk price is ~ $1.75/lb

504*1.75 = $882.

That’s just honey sales, not taking into account nuc sales or queen sales, both of which I have done with moderate success.

Finally, because I would be running an agricultural operation, I would be entitled to claim business losses on taxes, and— depending on the year—, the USDA will pay claims for lost hives up to $258/hive.
https://www.fsa.usda.gov/Assets/USDA-FSA-Public/usdafiles/FactSheets/archived-fact-sheets/elap_for_honeybee_aug2017.pdf.

In conclusion:
Will it be possible to payoff the land in a few years? Yes. Is it likely? Not unless I have excellent yield for several years in a row. At the very least, the profit from honey sales alone would more than pay for property taxes.

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Can you turn the honey into mead in your state? I think MD and PA allow agriproducers the ability to turn their product into alcohol for resale (at least I see many orchards that are also produce their own ciders).

You absolutely can, with the proper (brewer’s) license. But that’s a whole 'nother regulatory rabbithole that I have no desire to enter. (Though I have done some legal research into it.) In doing customer research for bulk sales, I’ve found that there are many mead producers who wish to buy local.

And, when I sell 5 gallon buckets of honey, my customers are often hobby mead-makers.

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Any honey coming out of China should really have quote marks around it due to their counterfeit honey.

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