Joe Laroche is the owner of Sweet Joe’s Honey, sold in the 21c Bentonville Museum Shop. Though he hails from the northeast, he and his wife (and their bees) now call Arkansas home. Sweet Joe’s Honey is light amber in color with a subtly fruity flavor that can be found in dishes prepared by Chef Matt McClure at The Hive. Laroche is a founding member of the Benton County Beekepers Association, one of several beekeeping societies throughout Northwest Arkansas.
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Are you native to Northwest Arkansas? If not, how did you end up here?
I am a resident of Rogers. My wife and I lived in many areas of this country through my working career, the bees came with us from the start. We retired here because in addition to beekeeping, I am an avid fisherman and wanted to be near a clear water lake. My wife insisted that we live within 15 minutes of a major hospital. I wanted weather with four seasons and the winter season to be milder than Yankee land. Beaver Lake and Rogers became the target after much exploring of lakes in this climate zone but locations that were remote from hospitals.
How did you start making honey? When did you turn it into a business?
I started with bees while working in a bank during the period that I was getting my master’s degree from the University of Massachusetts. The recession of 1974 cost me my construction job and I was lucky to get a computer operator job in the Security National Bank in Springfield, Mass, where I worked with one other fellow who was a part time beekeeper. He got me interested and this prompted me to take a course in Entomology in my last semester, Beekeeping 101. I have had bees ever since and I am in my 42nd year and now keep between 40 to 60 colonies.
What do you love about living inNorthwest Arkansas? Are there a lot of people making honey there?
We started the Benton County Beekeepers Association several years ago. We have a beginners program each year that has attracted a lot of new beekeepers to the area. I mentor several new comers each year as well as keeping my bees in yards throughout Benton County and two yards in Washington County.