It isn’t often that you hear stories of success that begin with skipping school, but for John David Peterson, owner of World Honey Market, that is one of the exact moments he can trace as the beginnings of his company.
“It all started in the 8th grade,” Peterson recalls, recalling when his love of insects and entrepreneurial spirit collided head-on. Even at a much younger age, Peterson was fascinated by insects, rushing home in the afternoon to catch the latest PBS special or well-worn VHS recordings of RFDTV’s beekeeping program with University of Georgia entomology professor Dr. Keith S. Delaplane, MBE. From time to time, his insistence on devouring any and all educational materials on bugs put him at odds with his younger brothers, who weren’t as keen on rewatching the programs on a back-to-back basis.
But by the 8th grade, it was evident to everyone around John David that bugs, bees, were more than just a passing fancy. He wanted to make a career of it. “My dad sat me down one day and had a deep conversation with me. My dad said I’m not so sure the world eats as much honey as you think, or if you could even sell it.” The conversation seems funny now, all those years later, but Peterson’s father wasn’t just trying to discourage his son; he was trying to prepare him. “You see, my dad grew up on a hog farm and was treasurer for the FFA in his youth,” Peterson explained. “He understood the importance of growing crops and the need to be able to sell that crop in order to make something a career like I was expressing that I wanted to try with beekeeping. My dad was and still is a realist.”
Even the most stringent realist isn’t beyond persuasion. John David eventually convinced his dad not only to take him to get the materials needed to try and produce a honey crop that the first year, but he talked him into letting him skip school to do it!
Success looks different and often doesn’t follow a linear path, “After a year with my very own bees, I successfully managed to kill all the hives,” John David adds with a laugh. However, now in high school, like his father, Peterson decided to join the FFA, though more so to carry on the tradition, not really connecting how his bees fit into the world of agriculture. While John David might have been passionate about bees, he found a matching pound-for-pound with an Ag advisor who was passionate about the FFA, Greg Johnson. “He strongly encouraged me to enter into the state SAE program with my honey bees. I honestly don’t know how much different my life would look today if not for his encouragement.” The SAE Program or Supervised Agricultural Experience is a student-led, instructor-supervised, work-based learning experience that results in measurable outcomes within a predefined, agreed-upon set of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources (AFNR) Technical Standards and Career Ready Practices aligned to your Career Plan of study. Much to his humble surprise, Peterson won the FFA State Proficiency Award for Agro Entrepreneurship in 2010, competing against other students who specialized in cows, chickens, and hogs. “Being No. 1 in the state is pretty big,” Peterson said in an interview with the local newspaper at the time. He won more than $500 with the FFA award, which he was determined to apply to his business, and did.
Following high school and the principles and tools given to him through the FFA, he decided to continue to invest in his fledgling company. Eventually, going to work for a local beekeeping legend, the late Mike Thomas. “Mike Thomas shared stories, knowledge, and hands-on experience that was not available at all colleges or as educational courses at the time.” John David said of his experiences working with Thomas. “One of his favorite lines was, ‘I have a Masters from the school of hard knocks and a doctorate in profanity.’”
John David continued to learn from Thomas about bees and persistence in agriculture and even decided to follow in his mentor’s footsteps and pursued a small loan from FSA. However, at 20 years old he had little luck closing a deal with the government lending agency. Instead of telling him to give up, Thomas instead wrote a letter of recommendation that was passed up to the state capital. This letter of recommendation opened doors, reading, “despite his age, John shows deep interest in this profession and has the desire to pursue this as a career.”
One week later, John David and his team were closing on a $130,000 load for honeybees, a bobcat loader, and a flatbed truck.
However, it was difficult to find bees at that time of year, so Thomas agreed to sell Peterson 80 hives of his bees and allowed him to help pay for them by putting them on his own cucumber pollination contract. “Looking back,” Peterson said, “this was probably one of the most unselfish acts from a person who wasn’t blood-related to I had ever experienced.”
From that one single hive in the eighth grade, World Honey Market has grown to more than 3,000 hives of honeybees that we travel with and migrate all over the United States of America. Now, as the company enters its fifteenth year of operations, our mission statement becomes more and more relevant as we continue to strive to uphold those core tenants.
In 2022, Peterson was honored as one of the top three finalists in the Florida Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers & Ranchers Achievement Award. This award seeks out farmers and ranchers under age 35 and honors their efforts in production, agriculture, and leadership achievement.
Since the beginning, our mission has been to harvest and distribute the highest quality, pure raw honey from around the globe. In addition, we are committed to protecting the honeybee through examples and education while teaching and promoting sustainable beekeeping and offering solutions to the massive issues that honeybees face globally, giving us a stage to collaborate and share knowledge on a grand scale. Much like the FFA did for John David, he is investing in future agriculturists and apiarists from around the globe. With the leadership and network built from his time in the FFA, he is transcending borders and bridging the gap when it comes to global beekeeping, training students worldwide in the art of beekeeping right here in our own backyard of Sanderson, Florida.
Our students come from all around the world. They are highly motivated and willing to learn American commercial beekeeping practices in hopes of taking their knowledge back to their families and countries of origin to begin their beekeeping enterprise.
We offer support and encouragement, and opportunities to continue their relationship with World Honey Market beyond their time in the states. We are proud to extend support throughout their career and provide a training facility to teach students all aspects of the business, from honey bee and colony nutritional training to additional emphasis on farm machinery and mechanical maintenance.
For John David, World Honey Market isn’t just a company. It’s a legacy of integrity. John David and his wife, Emilee, and their family, hope that beekeeping always has a place, generation after generation.
World Honey Market is a locally owned, locally produced, and locally packaged company in the USA with a robust list of varieties; the honey is never compromised. From its most popular and most unique product, the Datil Sting Hot Honey, to the ever-popular pure, raw honeycomb, commitment to quality has never wavered.
From Sanderson, Florida, spanning across the globe, John David Peterson is a testament to the power of agriculture education in schools and a supportive network that stands behind him and his company.
As a way to give back and stay connected to the programs that meant so much, early on to Peterson and World Honey Market, in the fall of 2022, World Honey Market launched "Got Honey Fundraising." This joint venture with ag programs across the state and the southeast enables middle and high schoolers to raise funds for their programs while promoting a local product from an alumnus who has been in their shoes.
For more information on World Honey Market or Got Honey Fundraising, visit us online at www.worldhoneymarket or www.gothoneyfundraising.com