By now, you’ve probably heard someone buzzing about Rocky River Bees. You may have seen their signature glass bottles filled with sweet liquid gold at local stores and coffee shops throughout the area. The award-winning business is based in Pittsboro and has gained popularity throughout our region (and beyond) for their delicious honey. But who is the beekeeper behind this fantastic product and buzzing business?
Jody Moore, NC Master Beekeeper
Chatham County small business owners work hard, and Jody Moore can give a master class on hard work. Like many of our local visitor businesses, his curiosity and interest sparked a path to a thriving and award-winning production of honey bottles. Beekeepers, or anyone interested in honey bees and beekeeping, can learn a lot from a conversation with him or watching him at work.
A longtime Chatham County resident, Jody was born and raised in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, then attended Appalachian State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Geography/Computer Cartography. He worked for state and regional government in GIS before arriving in Chatham County in 1997 to start the GIS program and eventually becoming the first Director of the Information Technology Department (and as a side note, county staff members considered him one of their favorite colleagues). Then, one day, he ordered a package of banded bees from a magazine, and his career in apiculture began.
The fascinating world of beekeeping comprises the realms of agriculture and entomology, both with uncertain and uncontrollable factors to consider: seasons, weather, honey bee biology, sociality, and their pests and diseases. Honey crops vary yearly and have many variables, so it’s only possible to plan for the unimaginable (everything) regarding what to harvest. Honey bees lead a delicate existence – almost no “wild” bees are left in our area, and hives that swarm and go feral have little chance of surviving independently for even a year.
Thankfully, as a humble beekeeper, Jody always maintains an open mind to learning, so when he experiences setbacks, he approaches his work with a patient attitude and a healthy enthusiasm to tackle the challenges ahead. Shares Jody, “I wanted to do something that I hoped would make a difference in the world and that I loved doing. What started as a hobby became an obsession for me! The more you learn about bees, the more you want to learn.”
Jody started Rocky River Bees in 2010. Soon, the number of hives he managed quadrupled and kept growing. In 2017, Jody went through the NC Master Beekeeper Program (NCSBA), which involves a written test and a practical exam but also requires many service credits for educating the public about honey bees. It was a significant milestone for him. Today, he has more than eight sites maintaining hives, and in 2022, he installed his first pollinator station in Chatham Park.
Sommelier of Beekeeping
Akin to wine experts and connoisseurs who want to reach the pinnacle of education in their chosen interest, beekeeping has its own certifications. The EAS Master Beekeeper Program is the oldest and most highly respected program in the United States. The program was started by Dr. Roger Morse at Cornell University in the late 1970s and was later transferred to the Eastern Apicultural Society (EAS) to administer in 1981. Certification indicates a high level of beekeeping expertise and the ability to educate others in this art. The exam has a high failure rate and is intensive, with four separate exams: written, oral, laboratory, and field, each requiring a score of 85 or higher and covering a range of subjects: beekeeping history, anatomy, pests, diseases and treatments, equipment, seasonal management, sociality and communication, botany, and pollination, just to name a few.
Jody recently passed this exam – another tremendous milestone in his beekeeping career. Unique approaches to this exam are necessary, as they do not teach the material and only test once a year. Experience was an advantage for Jody, especially for the oral and field exams. Honey bees are the most studied insect in the world, so there’s abundant information to read. He tells us they “were absolutely the hardest tests I have ever taken!” Until now, only 10 North Carolinians have ever obtained this certification.
Rocky River Bees: Best In Show
Jody exemplifies the phrase “worker bee“. Although he’s in charge (the king bee, perhaps), he works hard managing several sites for Chatham Park, MOSAIC, the City of Sanford, and individuals – from troubleshooting and anticipating issues to preventing problems and providing continuous education about ecosystems. His hard work has paid off; Jody has won Blue Ribbons for his two entries into the N.C. State Fair for six consecutive years. In 2023, he received the coveted Eastern Apicultural Society (EAS) Silver Plate Award during their annual conference at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. EAS is an international organization and the largest Beekeeping Association in the U.S. It encompasses all the states east of the Mississippi River, including Canadian Provinces. Having his honey recognized as the No. 1 Extracted Honey in Eastern North America was a huge honor for him.
If you want to pair your award-winning honey with food and drink, Jody says it’s easy to work it into your routine. He recommends using it as a sugar substitute in recipes and to sweeten smoothies, tea, and coffee. It’s great drizzled over toast and hot biscuits (even fried chicken) and incorporated into sauces and glazes. “Honey and peanut butter sandwiches are probably my favorite.”
Several stores in Chatham County carry Rocky River Bees honey, including:
- Jordan Lake Christmas Tree Farm
- Carolina Cravings
- Southern Threads
- New Horizons West
- Pittsboro Feed
- County Farm and Home
- Chatham Marketplace
- Aromatic Roasters
- True Value Hardware General
They sell out annually, and he plans to scale up and add more hives to expand production and pursue pollination services. Jody says he’s “grateful to run a small business in Chatham County! I love all of the interactions I have with the stores, customers, clients, land owners, and beekeepers/bee-lovers. It’s a great feeling to be able to do something that I love, and have worked hard at, and be recognized at a high level.”
Jody Moore, NC Master Beekeeper and EAS Master Beekeeper, has been beekeeping since 2000 and is actively involved in his industry in many ways. Read more about his awards and certifications.