Army veteran and his “hive” find success: Hillside Honey in their own words

Nov 5th, 2021

Something that every veteran family knows is that the soldier does not stand alone. He works as part of a team, with his fellow soldiers, community and of course, his family. That's the same with us. Every military member does what they do, not just for their nation, but for the family members that love and support them at home.

It goes even beyond the individual family, because we've been witness to the bonds between military families. It is a unique one that travels beyond duty stations, state lines and even international borders.  We have lifelong friends here in our community and around the world who will forever be a part of our community because of the loyalty and devotion that we share toward one another. Ask any military member or their family and they will know instantly what we’re talking about.

This bond, coupled with our steadfast faith in God, is what has helped make our family who we are today. You won't get to know who we truly are unless you include our faith in God.  We pull together when we see another in need. We chip in and give from our hearts of our time, compassion and resources. We lift up and encourage those who grow disheartened. We organize and create opportunity when we see a community in need.  Those characteristics come from our faith in God and our experiences as a military family.

As Ty was retiring from the military, we both saw a unique opportunity to step out of the military life and step into our community, bringing our experiences and know-how.  Ty had served as both enlisted and an officer. Not many get to be in both sets of boots and it gave him a broad perspective on how to be an effective leader.  When he retired, those skills became assets to the newfound family business of beekeeping. 

Our friends, Ron and Beth Ward, created the original Hillside Honey.  Ron was a veteran too and he and Ty hit it off!  Ron shared his experiences in the military and Ty learned about the science (and art) of beekeeping. When Ron passed away, he was sorely missed.  Beth sold us the bee farm. They both handed down a heart and passion for raising bees and teaching the next generation.

Our next chapter included buying an old 1920's High School in the rural town of Easton, Kansas. The full story would take a long coffee break to cover, so we'll save that for another day. Just know it involves a lot of remodeling, paint, new gym ceiling lights and the removal of lots and lots and LOTS of old desks! 

It's been nearly 8 years since Ty's retirement and we've learned the ins and outs of beekeeping as well as the ups and downs and side to sides of running a business and remodeling an old 'vintage' school!!  Like all good farmers, we've grown wiser from our mistakes, more frugal with our spending, more experienced and more patient with what each day brings. Some days have been 'funner' than others, for sure!

We've suffered bee colony losses during winter polar vortex storms, had to replace all three roofs on our bee farm school building, health issues and more. Nearly four years ago, I became allergic to honeybees.  No others, JUST honeybees. Go figure! I still remember being in the ER and staring at each other, saying, 'Now what!?'. But, perseverance is one of those characteristics of a person of faith as well as a military family. So, we persevered. Here we are today! It's what we do—we persevere! A few years’ worth of immunotherapy shots and a whole lotta faith in the hope of tomorrow has helped too.

There's been so many great opportunities as well.  We've watched all three of our children grow up in the business.  Our shy one became a very confident, bold saleswoman who now runs her own business and teaches music.  Our youngest learned to count back change and would spout the most random bee facts by the age of 10 to the sweetest, most patient farmers market customers with boldness and clarity. So proud!

Our customers have gotten to watch our children 'grow up' at the market and ask about them regularly. Our youngest son is now the tallest member of the family and, in all honesty, could run the whole shebang by himself! Our youngest daughter had a passion for horticulture sparked by our work with the bees and plants and is now working on her college degree in horticulture locally. Did I mention she's planning on turning the football field into a U-Pick Flower farm?!? 

We've been blessed to bring groups out to the bee farm to educate both young and old about everything from Apiology to Gardening and Horticulture to the Science (and Art) of it all.  Why do we say science and art? Because the saying goes that if you ask ten beekeepers the same question, you'll get ten different answers.  This is mostly true! While there's a basic science behind it all there is some finesse, talent, skill, wisdom and 'art' that goes into raising and caring for your beehives and the flora they pollinate. 

It's been a blessing in so many ways but we've also grown wiser from the 'opportunities to excel', as Ty likes to call them.  I think it's an Army thing. (wink) 'Opportunities to excel' should be spoken with a slight sarcasm and a whole lotta of resolve to persevere.  Again, it's what we do!

So, by the grace of God, we take each day for whatever it holds and we hope for the promise of tomorrow.

When it comes to Market Wagon, we see a lot of parallels. First, as a good Army family, we agree with the mission! Make connections. Fill a need in the community. When an 'opportunity to excel' arises, rise to the opportunity. Persevere.

We wanted to jump in and have Hillside Honey be a part of the Kansas City branch of Market Wagon because we saw the same passion to plug into community and help fill a need that we see in ourselves.  We see a unique opportunity to bring the farmer to his neighbor and his neighbor's neighbor and create a relationship of community! When the store shelves were bare at one point in 2020, we immediately thought, 'Now what? How can we help!?' There was a visible need for folks who could step up to step up.

Early on in the pandemic, we tried to meet that need on a very small scale. We put together a weekly delivery system to our local Fort Leavenworth, Leavenworth and Lansing area.  It was a lot of hard work and we were starting to feel the pull of multiple deliveries, numerous messages and trying to be a farmer and producer, too.  This 'little red hen' felt a bit like she was 'growing the grain, grinding the grain, kneading the dough, baking the bread and delivering it’ after talking three hours on the phone! Ha ha! Don't forget, making supper for my own family and chores and caring for aging parents.  Whew! So thankful that our family all chipped in and helped keep the boat afloat!

We said several times we wished we had the means to put together an online version of a farmers market and then, out of the blue, we were contacted one day by a Market Wagon representative who told us that Market Wagon was starting up in our area. It was awesome! I told Ty, “This is it! This is exactly what I was talking about! This is what our communities need right now, a few good folks to help make the connection between farmer and neighbor and keep it simple, so the farmer can focus on farming!”

Y'all were a part of that.  Thank you!

That's why we are proud to be a part of Market Wagon.


Ty and Shelley Martin

The Market Wagon team wants to honor all veterans who have partnered with us in each of our locations.