BUZZWORTHY: Westside’s resident beekeeper finds new home for hives
August 23, 2018
If you’ve ever attended a Transform Westside Summit, there’s a good chance you’ve seen J.R. Murphy, Atlanta native and the Westside’s resident “King Bee.” He circles the room, stirring up interest and excitement about an important and delicious passion: honey.
An urban beekeeper with several beehives situated across Atlanta’s Westside communities, Murphy has become a vocal and fervent advocate for the environmental and health benefits of bees and beekeeping. And now Murphy’s passion has extended to Truly Living Well, an urban farm where he’ll manage five hives on site. Once a week, he’ll be onsite for learning sessions—which he’s been doing for the last two months.
A walk with Murphy though the Truly Living Well grounds reveals a master communicator on the subject of healthy living, bees and their invaluable roles. The vibrant 65-yr-old has a thirst for learning and teaching, which has led to connections with Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta University, Food Well Alliance, Living Foods Institute, the Herman J. Russell Foundation and the Westside Future Fund. He participates in various programs and classes to sharpen his business acumen and build infrastructure for his hives.
His latest affiliation with Truly Living Well is a result of a chance conversation with Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy after a construction project at a nearby park dealt a fatal blow to Murphy’s hives.
“One afternoon I came home and it seemed like a desert storm was coming down the street at me—that much dust,” Murphy said. “They had torn up the street and were doing construction…but the toxins [in the air] from them tearing up the asphalt and the street killed my bees.”
From natural predators to construction to the application of common chemicals for insect repellant, Murphy is quick to point out that there are many threats to bees in the common built environment.
“A lot of people don’t understand about the bees…but there’s a whole lot about the bees that people need to learn,” laments Murphy. “You have a lot of foundations and different people now trying to understand bees, but they really don’t. We’re trying to take it to a higher level.”
At a Transform Westside Summit in late 2017, a chance conversation between Murphy and Cathy about the bee disaster led to a surprising outcome for Murphy.
“I had previously given Mr. Cathy one of my jars of honey,” he remembered. “So just before the last Future Fund meeting before Christmas, he brought me some honey from his hives. Mr. Cathy is a beekeeper!”
The Chick-fil-A CEO assisted Murphy in replacing his five lost hives and ultimately helped reenergize his “buzzing” enterprise.
With these new hives and his confident, “busy bee” attitude in high gear, Murphy acquired several more hives and new opportunities. More than ever, he’s focused on using the natural magic of bees to positively impact health and community. With a hearty laugh and overflowing enthusiasm, Murphy—much like his bees—is quick to move between people, conversations and situations in a way that benefits everyone in the ecosystem. With 13 hives, Murphy has even bigger plans for his future, proving that it’s never too late to build your tribe—or your hive.