February Summit Spotlight: Westside Beekeeper and Urban Farmer J.R. Murphy

Beekeeper and urban farmer J.R. Murphy of J.R.’s Joy and Reflect Gardens is our “buzz-worthy” Summit attendee of the month. We caught up with the Vine City resident and Summit regular after our Feb. 3 meeting to find out why his bees are “having a ball” and why he loves the Westside, his home of more than 15 years!

IMG_8359“Me and my bees got a thang going on!” – J.R. Murphy, Beekeeper


How long have you been a beekeeper? Over three years.

How did you get into beekeeping? We used to have a gym right around the corner, and I used to sell my produce [from my garden] there. One Saturday, Dr. Jennifer Leavy from Georgia Tech came up. What she said is I dressed her two boys up like grapes! They kicked it with me all day! I would play music and make people feel like they were at home. She gave me her card and told me about the Urban Honey Bee Program. I went over there, and I said, ‘Yeah! Come pollinate my garden.’ This thing done took off. We’re eagles! She’s a master eagle, and I’m just a baby eagle, but moving at light speed. And that’s how I got into the Urban Honey Bee Program.

Listen below to J.R. tell the story of his first encounter with Dr. Jennifer Leavy and his start with the Urban Honey Bee Program at Georgia Tech. 


How many bees do you have? There are thousands of bees in a hive. In one hive, I may have about 30,000 bees. I’ve created 10 hives, but I’ve lost four. I’ve also given some of my hives away. Atlanta Zoo has a hive and a few neighbors have my hives.

How long have you been attending the Transform Westside Summits? The first meeting I came to, I believe, was near Labor Day. I’ve been to about 10 since.

What do you enjoy most about the meetings? The meetings have been so profound. They have allowed me to create on demand. There, I create my story on demand. I’ve met some awesome people. The first guy I met was W. Allen Bell, who runs the Atlanta Resource Foundation. He gave me his card, and after the meeting, he came over to see the beehive. He then took me to The Carver Market. They have a grocery store, restaurant, a commercial kitchen, toy store and community houses. This is what the Vine City community is striving to become. Another guy ended up taking me to visit the Boy Scouts of America, which led to me completing their Youth Protection Training. I’m now able to certifiy Eagle Scouts in beekeeping and ecology merit badges. I just keep meeting and keep meeting. It just don’t stop. I also recently met the guy over all the youth for United Way. They want bees and a garden.

How do you think the Summit meetings benefit the community? If it benefits JR, it benefits the community. I’m a community activist over here. I’m gonna make sure they [the residents] know. I just try to make a difference. And making a difference is what creates the rainbow. And I think the Westside Future Fund is making a difference and that’s why I come.


Want to share in J.R.’s journey? Follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/joyandreflectgardens.