Meet Darren and Meagan Orsage of Lexington, TX, fourth-generation beekeepers and owners of Leeco Honey.
This article is from our Spring 2020 issue.
Leeco Honey operates on 90 acres of land that has been in the family since May of 1880. The land offers both native range and brush for hog and deer hunting. The beehives are located in two separate pastures and were placed away from the home on the property and the cattle pens. The Leeco Family has access to cattle pens, which were built by Texas A&M Students in the 80s, an orchard that is over 30 years old, two pole barns, and an old homestead that was the original house built by Darren’s great-great-grandparents on the property over 100 years ago. There are two tanks on the property, which collects rainwater and runoff, along with some natural springs on the west side of the property. There is also a small garden near the house that is used for vegetable and herb production for the family.
Building a Family with Leeco Honey
“The Lord will fight for you; you only need to be still.” – Exodus 14:14
Like honey – We are messy, yet beautiful. Our family has experienced loss and love throughout the years. We wanted to share our story with you so you would begin to understand why we believe our little family of six is so special. Darren lost his wife in the fall of 2013 to cancer. Meagan became a single mom through divorce that following spring in 2014. These were dark and sad times for both of us and our girls. But we prayed. We had family walk with us through grief. God showed us such love and kindness through the people he brought into our lives as they loved us through the pain.
In the stillness of finally surrendering to God’s plan for us, Darren and I found each other, blended our little family, and now we live in a little white farmhouse in Lexington, TX. We had the sweetest little baby bee join our family in the early spring of 2018, and we call her Nash Fain, after Darren’s side of the family, Fains Honey. Along with Meagan’s grandfather, who had over 300 hives in LaSalle County, I guess you can say honey runs through our blood and deep in our family trees. We raise raw, natural honey – straight from our farm to your table.
Darren was born and raised right here in Lee County. The land in which we stand has been in his family for over one hundred years. There is a homestead still standing with original barns, orchard and farm equipment from the turn of the century. This place is special to us. This is where our bees call “home.” This is where our family calls “home.” This is where our girls will grow up, running through the pasture, picking wildflowers, meeting friends at the tank to fish, playing in the garden, and lying under the post oaks. This is our dream. God has brought us here, and we see Him in every flower, bee, smile, and meal we share at our home.
The road to this place wasn’t easy. There was death, divorce, loss, and pain so great – I honestly cannot put it into words. What you see wasn’t what our family had originally planned for our lives. But, God. We do not know why or how or when – but we do know that He is GOOD. He is kind. He has brought us so much happiness and joy after such pain and sadness. We look at each other often and cannot believe the love, joy, and rest we find in our love and our family. We have truly been redeemed – but this is nothing compared to the redemption to come when Jesus returns.
Darren had been feeling the “pull” to become a beekeeper for years. As a teenager, he would spend summers at his grandfather’s farm in Llano, TX. Although he played in his woodworking shop, where he built his hives and assembled his frames, he wishes he had learned more from one of the original founders of Fains Honey. His grandfather loved Christ, his family, and his bees! Edgar Fain would tell stories about encountering rattlesnakes, mountain lions, and, believe it or not, snow monkeys in Dilley, Texas, while managing his hives. Darren still speaks of those times often with such happiness. With a gentle “push” from Meagan four years ago – Darren took that first step, bought two hives, and brought them home to Lexington. We lovingly call these hives our “A-Team” – as they have been our major producers! 🙂 Since then, we have added more hives, and we currently have 27 hives in the bee yard!
5. What do you want people to know and understand about bees?
Bee You, Bee Kind, Love Jesus – Our “motto!”
Our mission is to grow bees ethically and naturally in order to provide our community with raw, natural honey straight from our farm to your table. We will never blend or compromise the nutrients shared with us from our bees – “we blend our family, not our honey” – our community will only have the best, and the best comes from our Leeco Honeybees. We want everyone in our community and beyond to fully understand the benefits of and love for raw, natural honey. We want our community to become critical consumers of their food and food sources. We want our community to come and visit our farm and learn first-hand the hard work, dedication, and joy beekeeping can bring to a home. We consider beekeeping and the subsequent honey production to be renewable and sustainable agribusinesses that are both integral to our overall community’s health and well-being. We value hard work and a love for the community that agriculture is able to sustain through natural products. We value family, our faith, and time with those we love. We are passionate about transparency in the beekeeping world and providing 100% raw, natural local honey for our community.
6. What connection do you feel as a beekeeper to the bees and the land they are on?
Oh goodness, it is EVERYTHING. God created us to steward His creation well. It is up to us to care for even the smallest of creatures. We never use pesticides or insecticides. We have all native grass. We plant native flowers. The taste of the honey depends on what and when, and where they forage. The taste of our honey is truly unique, and our community has really come to love its distinct flavor. It is stronger and has a darker color in the fall and a lighter color and taste in the summer. We also care about the bee’s well-being. If it has been a dry fall with little to no forage available, we will not harvest honey that fall. We would rather sell out and have nothing to share than to put our bees at risk of starvation. When we taste our honey, it is truly Lee County honey – and we are proud of that. You can taste the yaupon, the mesquite, the wildflowers – all of it – with just one taste. Once you’ve had real, local honey… you won’t ever want what you would buy from the grocery store!
7. What makes Leeco Honey special?
As we mentioned before, Darren is a fourth-generation beekeeper, and I am a third-generation beekeeper. The history of beekeeping in our blood, the way in which our family has found each other, and how God plays a central role in how we do life and business truly sets us apart. We have strong opinions about being transparent and honest with our community about where their honey comes from. We have been approached by other beekeepers asking why we don’t buy honey from other states or countries and then bottle it as our own when we run out. We had no idea others did this! We would rather run out of honey, than put unnecessary pressure on our bees to produce or being dishonest with our community about where their honey is from. Just no. We take beekeeping very seriously and we aren’t here to be millionaires. We love beekeeping, sharing it with others, promoting this form of agriculture, finding ways to invite our community in, and pointing people to Jesus through it all. We do this by sharing our story, our “why.” I think this is what sets us apart. We know the importance of sharing more about the family behind the business so that people know who is behind that label and why should they buy from us – that is what our community wants! In fact, Leeco Honey is now listed as one of the Real Texas Honey Farm & beekeepers! Real Texas Honey is an organization dedicated to promoting quality Texas honey from real Texas beekeepers. They help to educate consumers about the benefits of Texas honey, and to show consumers how to determine when they are buying real Texas honey. This was a bucket list item for us and we are pinching ourselves that we are now on the list! We are so proud to represent Lee County!
One of our most favorite parts is sharing our honey with our community. To be able to have our community say, “leave me a jar on my mom’s front porch tomorrow morning” is a GIFT. THIS is community!
A side note ? We truly believe God has orchestrated every twist and turn we have experiences. We live on Farm Road 1624. We experienced a “gentle nudge” from God when we made the connection that one of our favorite Bible verses was also “Words like honey, sweet to the soul.” – Proverbs 16:24. We looked at each other and just knew we were where we were supposed to be – where God had planted us.
Teaching Our Children
We try to tie in aspects of beekeeping with lessons from the Bible to help us parent. For example, we chose the hexagon as our logo very intentionally. Honeybees fashion their honeycomb into the hexagon shape. The hexagon is the strongest shape- it is the most efficient, least wasteful shape found in nature. The compressive characteristics of the shape allow it to be one of the strongest structures in the world. The hexagon has six sides and there are six of us in the family. We like to think that we are a strong family of six who have come together to make this world as sweet and amazing as we possibly can.
God was so good to bring us together like he did. We believe that we can honor Him and give glory to his work through us by sharing our love for each other and our love for one of His most amazing creations in nature – honey. We like things simple and natural.
Bees also need community and each of them has their part to play in the flourishing of a hive. There are the worker bees, the queen, and drones. The workers are broken into other roles such as the foragers, the nurse bees, the housekeeping bees, queen attendant bees, cleaning other bees, pollen packers, nectar ripening, repairing hives, and even undertaker bees. That’s a lot of roles! But they all do their part for the betterment of the entire hive. The same could be said for Christians, we are all one part of the body – the church. Each part is needed in order to grow and flourish.
We try to celebrate and encourage the gifts each of the girls were given. We love that they are so different. We encourage each of them to care for and “do their part” to help serve the family. And we do so to show them that their chores, personality, and spiritual giftings are all for the good of the whole – their family and church.
Leeco Honey has been more than just a honey farm. We do more than raise bees, harvest honey, and share with friends. This honey farm has truly built community here in Lee County and beyond. We have made more friends, shared a meal with more families, and learned more about God than we could have ever imagined. They have all poured into us in ways – that again – I have no words.
For example, the Lexington high school art and agriculture students painted our bee boxes and it has been so much fun to look out at the bee yard and see Lee County (literally) written all over the hives. This community has embraced us and our small business with open arms – we are truly grateful for their love and support. In fact, if you come visit us, you’ll most likely see one of our neighbors wearing a #supportyourlocalbeekeer t-shirt around town! We love them!
Another example of how we love our community and they love us right back is when we hosted or very first Honey Harvest event at our home. Our local bakery, Fourth Street, prepared a feast with charcuterie trays, fresh baked breads with honey-themed spreads, and her famous Honey Cake that is our baby’s new birthday tradition. 6G Heritage Flower farm (also local!) provided beautiful flowers to share and they even gave a presentation to talk about planting for local pollinators. Taylor Farms brought fresh vegetables and herbs that were just beautiful! Sam, our local coffee roaster, gave us coffee for our guest and for a giveaway – that went quickly! And 4Blessings Farms recorded the event for us (they are YouTubers!) and created the most wonderful video of the Honey Harvest – talk about a blessing! So we love to share our local farms and businesses and promote the amazing products they have to offer. The support we all share is just a dream.
We want share our love for honey, for community, for agriculture, for small local business, and for Jesus with our family, friends, and community. You are all friends. You are all welcome to sit with us at our table. This is more than just bees and honey. This is celebrating God’s gifts and sharing those with others.
A day in the life of Leeco Honey
Because we have four very busy little girls, Darren (the Beekeeper) and I (the Beekeeper’s wife) take on different roles to make this business work. Sit down, grab an ice tea, and let us share a little more about what our day looks like.
Beekeeper: The fun thing about beekeeping is its never the same day to day and there is no average day in the life of a beekeeper because the tasks you need to complete are ever changing. In January we are feeding sugar water on warm days and making sure the hives are consolidated down as much as possible to avoid heat loss to keep our bees warm through the winter. In March we are splitting hives, introducing new queens and checking swarm traps. In June and July we are collecting our spring honey, extracting it, bottling it and getting it ready for distribution. In the heat of the summer we start feeding sugar water and introducing pollen to boost our bee populations and increase their food stores for winter. During the year we are evaluating hives for diseases and treating as needed. Beekeeping in 2020 is more difficult than ever with the increased use of pesticides / herbicides along with new difficulties like varroa mites keeping hives healthy is a constant battle. These challenges along with a few stings along the way are all part of the life of a beekeeper. If you are interested in becoming a beekeeper don’t let this discourage you! There are definitely things you need to work through to be successful but the efforts are very rewarding. You can take a peek into our bee yard here on our website!
Beekeeper’s Wife: I wake up before the house wakes. I love a warm cup of lemon water with honey as I sit in my favorite chair reading through the Bible. I need that quiet time before the busyness of the day sets in. When the girls wake up, they are ready for bacon and sweet rolls! Darren is the cook in the family (praise) and so as he is making breakfast the girls and I will curl up with blankets, me with a fresh cup of coffee in one of our “bee” mugs, and our PJs with worship music playing and talk about our day. When the weather is nice, the girls will play outside and help me in the garden. If you follow us on social media, you’ve seen quite a few of our photos of the girls covered in mud while in the garden. I love watching them just be kids out there. Darren will go check his bees as the girls and I play outside or do chores indoors. My favorite time of the day is when we go on our family walk. I’ve been learning more about the importance of a Sabbath and rest – it is lifegiving. For our family, our Sabbath is outside in nature and so we take a family walk. We walk through the orchard, watch the farm dogs chase each other, look for new baby calves, dream about turning the old homestead on the property into a honey house, bring Lady Ginger (our mare!) a treat, jump on haybales, and watch the sun set. It is just as dreamy as it sounds. We have quite a bit to be thankful for – we thank God every single day for these moments. At the end of the day, we take baths and put the girls to bed. I crawl on the couch next to Darren with a cup of grapefruit honey tea and we dream up big dreams for our future. (photos are organized on our website here!
Find Leeco Honey at:
On our website at leecohoney.com ! Or At Gourmet Divas in Giddings, TX and Fourth Street Bakery in Lexington, TX -Thank you for your support! All photos provided by Leeco Honey.
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