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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region.

ORAL HISTORY

Donald Smiley - Beekeeper and Former Oysterman


Smiley Apiaries

The son of farmers, Donald Smiley was not born with the bay in his blood. He spent his childhood in the inland town of Wewahitchka. As a young man, Donald worked as an air conditioning technician in Panama City. But in 1980 he moved to Franklin County and began oystering. Donald says he made more money in one day of oystering than he could make in a week at doing A/C repair. He harvested oysters for the next thirteen years. But in 1993 the industry was changing so much that Donald wanted out. As a hobby, he started tinkering with bees. He read books and learned from other beekeepers. In time, Donald amassed enough hives to turn to beekeeping—and honey production—full time. Today, Smiley Apiaries is a thriving business, specializing in tupelo honey. Donald has also gained some notoriety for his collaboration with Holley Bishop, author of the book Robbing the Bees. More than anything, though, Donald loves his bees. He has an appreciation for them, the process, and the especially the product. Donald eats some of his bees’ honey every day.

Date of interview:
2005-12-06 00:00

Interviewer:
Amy Evans

Photographer:
Amy Evans

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