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Carmel Valley's King Bee

An agritourism advocate shares the buzzworthy appeal of caring for busy pollinators.

beekeeper and proprietor John Russo of Carmel Lavender in bee suit with bees on farm in Carmel Valley, California picture
Photo credit
Photo: Anita Bowen
Photo caption
Russo keeps 30 hives at his Carmel Valley farm, Carmel Lavender.

A former commercial fisherman and Silicon Valley tech titan, John Russo left the workaday world to tend a lush 20-acre lavender farm in Carmel Valley, Calif., where he fell in love with his hardest-working farmhands—the bees. Now he leads Bee Experience tours at his farm, called Carmel Lavender, and at the nearby Carmel Valley Ranch hotel.

Q: How did you get into beekeeping? A: Through the farm. Bees seemed like a compatible companion for the plants, and they help the planet. There are about 1 million bees at my farm.

Q: Biggest misconception about bees? A: That their primary behavior is stinging. Most people are fuzzy about plants' reproductive process. Flowers have male or female receptors, and it's not like they can go to a disco and meet each other. Bees make that link for them, moving pollen between plants.

Q: What can participants expect? A: They'll wear a bee suit, enter an apiary, and visit the beehives with me. They'll learn about the secret life of bees and how honey is made, and sometimes even locate the queen bee.

Q: Why is agritourism popular? A: People crave an authentic experience. They want to connect and feel a part of the land and a place. You can't get that in a museum the way you can in a bee suit. There's something singular about suiting up and interacting with the bees in this beautiful part of the country that creates a lasting memory. And then people have a special story to share at dinner with friends.

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This article was first published in Summer 2016. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.