Roark Family Turns Honey into a Thriving Business
Five years ago, Michael Roark, Jr., was working as a project manager and bartender when he decided to make a change in his life. Ever the entrepreneur, Michael decided to become a honey farmer several years later and soon the rest of the family joined in creating Roark Acres Honey Farms.
Michael’s new venture began in his own backyard where he set up two beehives to encourage better pollination for his garden. “My squash blossoms were falling off the vine. When I did some research, I learned we did not have enough local pollinators to adequately pollinate my garden. It was this research, coupled with memories of honey bees blanketing the clover patch in my Grandma’s small front yard, which prompted me to setup my first two hives.” said Michael.
The second year of his operation, Michael farmed 15 hives and produced 100 pints of honey selling bottles to his neighbors. He then became an apprentice with an established beekeeper for nine months to learn the trade. Today, Roark Acres’ Oklahoma business is comprised of 650 hives across Northeast Oklahoma. Through avid research, Michael has discovered how to farm more honey while producing revenue for this new venture.
Roark Acres honey and products are sold at their store in Jenks at 502 E. Main St. and at events and festivals across the state. Their products are also sold through Grogg’s Green Barn, Sage Farms and the Cherry Street Farmers Market in Tulsa and at Carmichael’s Produce in Bixby.
Michael’s wife, Amy, runs the shop and oversees marketing and events for the business. “In 2015, we built a commercial kitchen where we produce and package our honey products including honeyed pecans, whipped honey, lotions and lip balms,” says Amy. “We also sell and ship our products online and the business is growing.”
Other family members have joined the bee ranching and honey farming team including Michael’s brother Scott who became a partner in 2016, Amy’s mother Penny who tends the store in Jenks, and 13-year old Chloe, the Roark’s daughter, who is busy packaging her own line of honey. They all have a great sense of humor in their work, in fact, Michael is known as “Sir Stungalot”, Scott is known as “Stingaling,” and Amy is known as the “Queen Bee.”
Caring for the bees and getting the most out of the enterprise is where Michael excels. He optimizes the hives for the best quality and highest volume honey production. “One of the things we do is spin the honey out of the comb so that the bees do not have to spend time rebuilding it,” says Roark. “That gives them more time to make honey.” In March the hives are shipped to East Texas where the bees get a jump start on Spring allowing them to begin their new brood earlier. The hives travel to Oklahoma in April and in early July they are moved to so Wisconsin. There the bees can escape the Oklahoma summer and gather nectar from the basswood tree, alfalpha, wild flowers and goldenrod.
The honey that is gathered in Oklahoma is packaged under the Roark Acres Okie Honey brand for customers in Oklahoma. In fact, in 2017, more than 17,000 pounds was sold in Oklahoma. “Everyone likes to use honey from the area in which they live for health reasons,” says Roark. “Most of the honey we collect in Wisconsin is sold there.”
Then, in February of each year, Michael and his brother Scott load the hives on semi-trucks and ship them to California where the bees are “rented” by almond growers to pollinate their orchards. “Before growers started importing bees the average acre of trees produced about 800 pounds of almonds. When bees are added to the mix, the orchard produces about 4,000 pounds of almonds per acre,” says Michael.
The Roark’s are bee ranchers at their finest. Each day, they research new methods to care for the bees and grow the business. “We’re building our legacy,” says Michael. “Something to pass on to our kids.”
For more information, visit their website at RoarkAcres.com or visit their store in Jenks at 502 E. Main Street.