Some families grew up playing board games in the comfort of their living room. Others loved hiking, camping and anything in the great outdoors. But Goose and Malia Tate’s family bond over bees. That’s right, the insect most people cannot stand, the Steele’s care for in their backyard.
Malia’s parents, Shaun and Kris Steel, started Steele Apiaries almost 30 years ago. With over 4,000 beehives, they transport them throughout Idaho, Montana, Oregon, California and Washington in order to pollinate crops and produce delicious honey.
With their bee empire continuing to grow, the family business has followed suit, manifesting in their daughter, Malia Tate. Jokingly referring to herself as a C-team beekeeper, Tate was not expecting to stay involved in the bee business, but her husband quickly caught the bug.
“My husband is that manual labor kind of guy who loves being outside,” Tate said. “My dad needed some extra help one season and asked my husband for help. He just fell in love with it. He calls the bees ‘his girls,’ and all this other stuff. It’s ridiculous, but he loves it.”
As Goose’s passion flourished, he began caring for his own hives and harvesting honey in their backyard. Living in a subdivision and using Facebook to market honey sales, the Tate's realized HOA living didn’t quite fit their lifestyle.
“We just didn’t belong there,” Malia said. “We love our new property so much more because we have so much space to sell what we want and to have room to host people and do tours. It takes a lot of time, but it’s working out really well.”
After moving, Goose wanted help in selling his honey, and he wanted to expand beyond Facebook announcements. But Malia, having grown up around the bee business, did not want this to be her life’s work.
“I was over it. I had done this my whole life and I was a teacher and we had our own kids. I just didn’t want to do it,” Malia said. “I ended up agreeing because it feels like a really strong connection to my grandpa and my family. I decided to attach the company name to something that I care about, so that’s why it’s called Steele Legacy.”
Establishing their company about three years ago, The Tate's have been improving and expanding their business on their new property. Walking into their storefront, your eyes are immediately drawn to the wooden crates and tin sheets creating a handcrafted wallpaper. Taking the tin sheets from their parents’ old shop and collecting boxes from their operation, the walls tell the story of Steele Legacy’s beginnings.
Selling two varieties of honey, hand-made soaps, apparel, and children’s books, the shop has everything you would want and expect at a honey farm, with a few added surprises. Hanging on a clothes rack in the corner are beekeeping suits in all different sizes. Each embroidered with a Steele family name, the suits are available for use on Goose’s beekeeping tours.
After suiting up, Goose takes participants into the bee’s domain, showing them how to collect honey, check the hive’s health, and teaching about the secret life of bees. After a tour, the Tate’s take a photo and put it up on their wall in the shop as a way to connect you to the Steele’s legacy.
“Growing up there was a place in Stanley that put a picture of my family on their wall in the hotel. So every time we came back, we would go and check to see if our picture was still on that wall,” Malia explained. “It’s a fun way to incorporate people into our family and to connect with them.”
Another way the Tate’s try to stay family focused is through educational classes on their property. Malia hosts homeschool and other children’s groups that want to learn more about bees and their important role in our ecosystem. With several adorable books and a pretend hive, she is able to show the life of a beekeeper and share her passion for teaching and bees.
“We pretend that we’re beekeepers and I have all these tools to help with that,” Malia said. “We practice what to do when we first come to a hive, what to look for, and show the kids the life of a beekeeper.”
Their connection with the community is the backbone of Steele Legacy Honey & Crafts. Without the support from the residents, shoppers, and agricultural community, it would be difficult to continue their family’s history in the way they have.
“That’s one of my favorite things about Steele Legacy honey, sharing our family culture and what we love about connection and the bees to everyone else,” Malia said.
So the next time you need some more honey in your pantry or you’re looking for an adventurous activity, stop by Steele Legacy Honey & Craft and know the tale behind the trail.
All photos courtesy of Steele Legacy's Facebook page