Jeff and Teresa Gregson are celebrating five years of Bees & Trees.
The farm, located at 18028 Carrico Mills Road in Elkwood, has blossomed from a Christmas tree farm to include fresh honey, jams, local farm products and now regional offerings of wine and beer.
The farm market store will officially open for the season on May 4, and the Gregsons have special plans for opening, including a new coffee blended especially for their retail store, facepainting, goats and pony rides for the kids and wine samples for the adults.
A lobbyist in Richmond, Jeff had planned to make this his retirement job and move to Elkwood when he left Richmond. Instead, the couple sold their house in the city and moved to the country shortly after buying the farm. Teresa retired from her lobbyist job of 24 years and it’s become a weekend and evening position for Jeff – and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
What started as just a Christmas tree farm – open from the day after Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve – has become a seasonal must visit for tourists and residents alike.
Shortly after moving in, they added the bees and began to harvest honey in 2015.
“People want local honey,” Jeff said. “It’s just that simple.”
“We thought it would be popular,” Teresa said. “We had no idea just how popular.”
Pulling up the lane, visitors are greeted with a sign that reads “pardon the weeds, we’re feeding the bees.”
The honey carries flavors of the wild flowers they planted in the front and the bees pollinate local farms, bringing back hints of clover.
The Gregsons plan to plant bulbs in the fall and offer cut flowers next spring – as another offering for visitors and as another pollen source for the bees.
Last year they harvested 175 pounds of honey and had to hold some back at Christmas because people expect it. It makes a great stocking stuffer.
As for the Christmas trees, that’s still the main attraction in the winter. They offer Canaan Firs, Norway Spruce, some White Pines and White Spruce and few Scotch Pines.
Jeff, the President of the Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association, agreed that last winter was a tight market due to the recession in 2007-2010.
“After 2008 a lot of big growers down in Southwest Virginia, they were stuck,” Jeff said. “People were cutting back. This is one industry where you have to think out seven, eight or nine years.”
Bees and Trees were lucky, they had enough to satisfy their customers until they sold out at the third week of the season. People were on the hunt for trees, which is part of the allure of the tree farm.
“What we’ve learned is it’s experience,” Jeff said. “Some people have been coming for years. It’s a tradition.”
A fire pit sits outside the barn and Teresa sells smores. Families flock to find the perfect tree and enjoy each others company.
“What we wanted to do was we wanted to create a family experience,” Teresa said. “It’s about creating memories.”
Those memories include the friendly goats and a chance to pick out your own eggs from the hen house. Santa and Mrs. Claus usually come the third weekend of the month and the Gregsons hook up the wagon and take the kids for a ride while picking up folks cutting their own tree.
They have between 6 and 7 acres, with approximately 2,500 trees on them. Last year, they sold more than 500 trees, with a little more than 300 of them from the farm.
This year they’ll be selling an anniversary coffee, and with the advent of their ABC license, they’ll offer local craft beers and wines to go along with local cheeses they hope to soon offer along with their private label of jams, sauces and salsas.
“We feel very strongly about local,” Teresa said. “We really support the idea of buying local.”
Bees and Trees is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday beginning May. 4.