Beekeeper was distraught after vandals broke into his bee farm and destroyed his hives—but how the community responded changed everything

January 4, 2018 12:51 pm Last Updated: January 4, 2018 3:14 pm

Justin Engelhardt and his wife Tori from Sioux City, Iowa, are two people who absolutely love bees. They are the owners of Wild Hill Honey, a bee farm that produces honey for distribution. Finding success, joy, and pride in their work, they’ve invested time and lots of effort into the company they have been running for the past six years.

Things were going well for the couple, until something terrible happened.

One day, just after Christmas, Justin went to see how the hives and bees were doing when he noticed something was seriously wrong. Investigating further, he discovered what had happened.

Vandals had ransacked the farm.

(Wild Hill Honey/Facebook)

Horrified by the discovery, after assessing the damage they concluded that it would cost them roughly $55,000 to restore the hives. The hives couldn’t be insured, so Justin and Tori had no idea what they were going to do. It looked like the end of the business.

“They knocked over every single hive,” Justin told the Sioux City Journal. “They broke into our shed, they took all our equipment out and threw it out in the snow, smashed what they could. Doesn’t look like anything was stolen, everything was just vandalized or destroyed.”

Worst of all, over half a million bees died during the raid.

But they weren’t ready to give up yet.

Posted by Wild Hill Honey on Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Deciding to continue with their bee farm, word of their efforts spread through their hometown quickly. Their situation touched many people who enjoy their honey, and the community decided that something had to be done to help them.

Things were about to start turning around.

A GoFundMe page was launched to help raise money to pay for the damage that Wild Hill Honey suffered.

Gaining traction, it ended up being a major success. Within a day, it raised over $20,000 and the number only climbed from there. In the end they got over $30,000 towards setting up their business again. Justin and Tori were so excited by the news.

Step 3! Bottle liquid gold!

Posted by Wild Hill Honey on Wednesday, July 27, 2016

“That is amazing. We are really, really grateful for all the support,” Justin explained in an interview with Sioux City Journal.

Grateful for the help from the community, Justin and Tori are now more committed than ever to getting back to work and finding a way to produce more honey for people to enjoy.

Within days, the fundraisers had hit enough of the goals for the company to not only continue, but thrive. 

“Because of you, we will be able to continue our business in the spring,” the couple shared in a Facebook post. “We are deeply moved by your compassion. Between the contributions and the equipment we were able to salvage, our needs have been met. There are so many great causes to support.

“Our wish is that this spirit of compassion will be used to help others now.”

Wild Hill Honey now stands as a pillar that represents the goodness that can come from group efforts. In a situation that at one point seemed like a lost cause, Sioux City showed that anything truly is possible if you work together.