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Meet the vendor: Next to Nature Farm

Meet the vendor: Next to Nature Farm
Posted on 08/29/2018
Next to Nature Farm is one of our honey and egg vendors, focused on environmentally friendly goods. The products can be found at both the Lenexa Public Market and Lenexa Farmers Market. 

Chad Gilliland, a certified arborist, started his small farm in Leavenworth County, Kansas, by planting an orchard. But Chad’s desire to increase his orchard’s fruit production introduced him to bees. Chad started with just two beehives but added two more the next year and six more the year after that. In December 2017, Chad left his full-time job to go all-in on his farm, and he currently owns 58 hives in six different bee yards. By 2021, he hopes to have 150 hives.

At one point, Chad recognized a niche market for all-natural, preservative-free, non-allergenic products. Since he already had a source for the bee pollen and wax, he launched a product line from these sources, with his first product being a lotion bar. While Next to Nature is not “certified organic,” it is an organic, chemical-free farm. Chad uses unconventional methods of pest control including sticky traps, horticulture soaps, dormant oils and pheromone traps. 

Today, the Next to Nature product line includes honey, honey straws, several flavors of infused honey, beeswax produces, lip balm, healing salve, and chicken and duck eggs. The infused honey does not have any artificial flavoring added and is instead infused at a controlled temperature for 30 days to pull the flavor from the source. While Chad produces most of the ingredients he uses in his product line, he sources organic products for anything he does not produce. 

As an active member of the Northeastern Kansas Beekeepers Association, Chad has learned from other beekeepers along the way, taking classes and gleaning information. This learning process allows Chad to add new items to his product line each year. 

One of these newer products is creamed honey that comes in three different flavors. It is made by whipping the honey with a starter (finely crystalized honey) to start a crystallization process that is finished slowly in a temperature-controlled environment for five to seven days. The result is a creamy, spreadable honey. 

One thing Chad wishes consumers understood is that much of the honey that is “bottled in the U.S.” comes from overseas and is often cut with corn syrup before arriving in the U.S., whereas Next to Nature honey comes entirely from the farm’s bees. However, one of the problems Next to Nature Farm is currently facing is the introduction of insects like the varroa mite and the hive beetle, which contributed to lower honey production in 2018. 

As for the poultry side of the business, Chad keeps a small flock of eight laying chickens on his farm and a flock of laying ducks on his dad’s nearby farm. His laying hens are a mix of Americans, Black Sex Link and Rhode Island Reds. They enjoy a fenced-in pasture area to range and feed on vegetation and insects, which helps protects them from predators like coyotes and dogs.

The flock has full access to a rotational crop of seeded grasses and other native vegetation and a wide complement of insects. This management practice offers a healthy supply of farm-fresh eggs with beautiful dark yellow-orange yolks that have a wonderful flavor and are better quality than factory-farmed eggs from the grocery store. 


Fun Facts:
  • Chad grew up on his dad’s farm in Leavenworth County, Kansas — where his dad breeds and trains mule teams — and worked for many neighbor farms in his youth.
  • Some of Next to Nature’s honey is used by local breweries in the production of honey mead.
  • Chad has acquired a pair of breeding peacocks and hope to start his peacock breeding program soon.