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John Umphress retiring to keep bees

Friday, September 27, 2019 by Jo Clifton

For the past 14 years, John Umphress has worked as an energy conservation program specialist with the Green Building section of Austin Energy. At his retirement party this week, Umphress received accolades from his former bosses, all of whom have preceded him into retirement: Tom “Smitty” Smith of Public Citizen, Andy Sansom of Texas Parks and Wildlife and Roger Duncan of Austin Energy. Although Umphress is retiring Monday, he has a busy life ahead of him with 140 beehives and a growing beekeeping business. Umphress told the Austin Monitor some of the hives are in Burnet County south of Bertram, others east of Manor. The hot summer has been a challenge, but he’s looking forward to having an occupation that will allow him to work outside. When most people think of bees and beekeeping, they think of honey, but Umphress said that might come later. Right now, his bees will be going to California to work as farmworkers and pollinate almond trees. He will also be selling excess bees. “Without the bees to pollinate the trees, they’d be out of business,” so he said the farmers treat the bees well. They will be headed to California in late winter and early spring. “It’s important that they have a good supply of bees to come out of the south. Then we’ll bring the bees back here and we’ll split them up,” since they will have reproduced, “and keep the process going.” Umphress, who is married to Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea, said his only regret about retiring is that he won’t see his friends at Austin Energy as much.

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