Kismet is one of those things that doesn’t happen often enough in life. But when it happens to us we explore it. When Mark and Sam came into our world we knew within minutes they were the kind of people we wanted to be around. Their life is headed in a direction that we want to be supportive of. Their story and their dream of becoming farmers and building a life different from what you might expect of two young twenty-somethings was a sentiment we understood all too well. The more we heard the more we wanted to know.
It turns out that Mark and Sam, now newlyweds are beekeepers (and aspiring land-owning farmers) on a quest for a simple and slow life. I had the opportunity to spend a sunny morning in their apartment drinking hand ground french press and learning about their Down Home Honey Co business. Here’s what they had to say!
What were you like as a kid?
S: I was always holding a farm cat. Growing up on a dairy farm, I was endlessly fascinated by the animals, the apple orchard, the creek, the bees. It was my smelly, muddy, bugs everywhere playground. Our house was not air conditioned and was heated with coal, so my memories of summer are all to do with tromping around in the woods and avoiding the indoors altogether; my winters of watching my dad stoke the fire. I was always very feminine indoors, opting for the pale pink crayon every time. The moment I stepped outside, I became more interested in the way mud smelled. I am still this person.
Why did you want to become a ______?
M: Beekeeper. Well, mostly because I saw that the cool kids (read: Samantha) were doing it. I was heartily aware of Colony Collapse Disorder and the important place in our ecosystem that honey bees hold, so it seemed a great—and oddly accessible—way to get my foot in the door as someone actively trying to care for the environment. Beekeeping is a fascinating hands-on, hands-off line of work. There was a real sense of wonder present every time we did a hive inspection this year (our first year as beekeepers), realizing that the bees were going to do what they know how to do best, and we mostly needed to stay out of their way.
What/who are your biggest influences and why?
M: This is somewhat obvious given my previous answer, but Samantha has been a tremendous influence on me. The fact of the matter is: I would not be involved in beekeeping or farming in any way if it were not for her. My upbringing was set in a metropolitan environment. My mom is a home gardener and did teach me to care about the environment, but Sam brought me out to the country and introduced me to a new lifestyle—and a practical philosophy of environmental stewardship—that has profoundly shaped the way I look at the future.
S: Hot coffee, because it is magic in a cup; it is the simplest of worldly pleasures. My grandpa’s shed—his retirement hobby, full to the brim with thousands of books and vinyl and fountain pens. His wonder and fascination with the littlest of things is something that still drives me creatively. Mark and I are very into collecting pieces of nature—interesting branches, skulls and bones, pressing leaves with little caterpillar bites of them. I always feel like if anyone would “get it,” it would be my grandpa. With beekeeping, I am fascinated by every single bee, and it sort of feels like an extension of my grandpa.
What does five years from now look like for you?
M: It’s hard to imagine because every year during the past five years has been so different. Ideally, though, we’ll have a bit of land where we can cultivate our dreams in a more concerted way: an expanded beekeeping operation, flower & vegetable gardens, chickens, and perhaps a few livestock in the mix. I write & record music in my free time and hope to continue doing that over the next five years and beyond, so I would love to have a dedicated space to enjoy that pursuit. I tend to picture us staying in Ohio, but who knows? Both of us have a willingness to go wherever the current takes us. We’ll see—I have a reluctancy to plan anything in too much detail because, in our experience, plans tend to go out the window more often than not.
S: Ha! We’re not clear on what two months from now will look like, so 5 years from now will probably look something like right now: unclear and full of potential.
Who’s on your playlist?
M: There are some mainstays that are always in rotation: The Beatles (and all of their respective solo work), Marvin Gaye, The Beach Boys, Ray Charles… but lately I have been listening to more contemporary artists. I really enjoy all of Tame Impala’s records, and Mac DeMarco too. I have definitely unsubscribed from the idea that there is no good music anymore.
S: Mark and I have identical taste in music. One of life’s funny ways. We started our relationship in deep conversation over The Beatles—particularly about George Harrison, and have carried that into our married life. Also, Mark is on my playlist! He’s a wildly creative music maker, always layering instrumentals with piano, ukulele, drums, percussion, vocals and foot stomping, all for the fun of making a little track. Our life is full of sounds; something I value deeply.
What secret projects or ideas have you, if any?
M: I don’t know if I would quite call it a secret, but we do have a big vision that is very much in the infant stages of conceptualization. Beyond being makers and producers ourselves, we would like to be in a position that helps others that are trying to do the same thing—small farmers, in particular. We have heard so many farmers, from Ohio to New York, talk about how they could really use an agent. We hope to be those “liaisons,” if you will, in some capacity—helping to get those people’s stories and products out there, be it through our blog or some other venue, acting as sort of a small marketing firm (though we really do not like that label).
Favorite place you’ve ever visited?
M: It would have to be Meteora in Greece. I have had the good fortune of traveling a lot during my lifetime, but no place has compared thus far. From the first time I saw a photograph of the towering pillars of stone soaring into the heavens, monasteries precariously perched atop, I was transfixed. The experience of being there was beyond what I could have even imagined. I hope to visit again, and would love if I had the opportunity to visit during each season of the year at some point during my lifetime.
S: Perhaps abstract, but my favorite place to visit is underwater. Growing up, the most peaceful place I could be was with the water. The utter silence of sinking below the surface and remaining still for a few seconds—it still transcends space and time for me. When we lived in Greece we would swim daily, often many times, and that moment of being above water and plunging beneath was always always always my favorite moment of the day. The body of water is not so important, though crystal clear blues are nice. The good news is I can visit my favorite place just about anywhere in the world.