ATLANTA, INDIANA — Five years ago, Nick Mumbower decided to buy a single beehive to place on his property located just outside Atlanta.
He had purchased the large house and 10 acres there five years earlier, when his family moved from their native Tipton to the property. With so much land, Mumbower's dad suggested he get a beehive and see what happened.
"It worked, and I thought, 'Man, this is interesting,'" he said. "'Let's get more.'"
Fast forward to today, and the property is swarming with around 2 million bees living in the 40 hives Mumbower installed around his land.
And that's just the beginning for what is now called Mumbe's Orchard and Bee Farm.
"It's like the American dream," he said. "You're building something from nothing. When we moved here, I just had the land. Now I have 40 bee hives, and next year we'll hopefully have 80."
This year, those hives will produce around 700 pounds of honey that's sold on the farm's website. Next year, Mumbower estimates the hives will make around 2,000 pounds.
The bees are the centerpiece of the operation, but there's way more than that thanks to Mumbower's best friend, Nathan Tebbe, who farms around 6,000 acres with his family in Tipton County. Last year, the two joined forces to launch a full farming operation at the house growing and selling all kinds of unique products.
"He knows a lot more about growing stuff than I do," Mumbower said. "I told Nate, 'You know what? The two of us can make this work.' And we're making it work so far."
Today, there's a huge pumpkin patch planted with 14 varieties, and another large area growing different varieties of decorative gourds such as blue moons and pink porcelains. There's also six different varieties of heirloom corn, and a 200-plant strawberry patch growing at the back of the property.
Then there's the fruit trees Mumbower hopes will one day produce nectarines, peaches, apricots, cherries and persimmons. Other trees will produce English and black walnuts.
There's already a small, but established, orchard on the property growing apples, but that's something Mumbower hopes to dramatically expand in the coming years.
He said he's currently looking to purchase some land to install a high-density orchard which would place around 1,000 trees on just 1 acre using a trellis-and-wire system.
"We want to have a lot of different options, so we're taking this off in bites," Mumbower said. "We started with the bees, got the pumpkins rolling and then in the fall we'll look at doing the orchard."
On Tuesday, Mumbower wandered through the property pointing out all the different plants, trees and hives living there, excitedly describing how bee colonies operate and how to best grow pumpkins.
For him, the farming operation is a grand experiment that provides some rest and relaxation from his career selling commercial HVAC systems, where he regularly puts in up to 70 hours a week.
"I come home and think, 'Ahhh, the bees. They won't give me too much stress,'" he said. "I just really like it. I'm having a blast with it, even though I still get stung all the time."
But Mumbower's real inspiration for growing and expanding the farm is seeing his children smile as they pick strawberries or help harvest the honey.
He said that last year, they held their first fall festival at the property, selling pumpkins, gourds and other produce they'd grown, and his kids absolutely loved it.
"Any time you start something and then you see the smiles on your kids' faces, it makes you want to do more and more," Mumbower said. "I figured from small beginnings, we could create something really cool, and maybe their future could be a little brighter."
Until then, Mumbower said, he'll keep working to make the farm a success. That includes organizing a much larger fall festival this year, where they plan to sell thousands of pumpkins and gourds and offer fun family activities starting the third week of September.
"The neat thing about starting this is you try different things out, so we've got all kinds of ideas for the festival," he said. "I wanted to bring an elephant, but apparently we can't get that. But, you know, go all the way, I figure."
They also plan to have a full inventory of honey, produce and other products they can sell year-round on their website.
"We really want to be diverse, and not just offer stuff in the fall," he said.
In the end, Mumbower said, he's looking forward to the day when his farm will generate enough profit to be his main source of income. But with his business officially launching just this year, he knows it may take awhile.
"Fifteen years from now, it'd be nice to just to this," he said. "It sure does beat working 80 hours a week."