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Hive minds: Family-owned Fain’s Honey thrives in Llano County

Clinton Walker and Jordan Raschler

Clinton Walker with his fiancee, Jordan Raschler, in front of a wall of Fain’s honey ready to be shipped out to stores across Texas. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

Clinton Walker represents the fourth generation of Walkers who have been slinging honey in Texas for nearly 100 years. The family recently took over Fain’s Honey, a Llano County institution that has been producing the sweet stuff since 1926. He is continuing the legacy of two great beekeeping families and building buzz around the business while he’s at it.

Together, the two families have nearly 200 years of Texas beekeeping experience. 

The Walker and Fain families have a shared history that stretches back nearly a century to when the founding fathers of honey were raising bees in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. Over the decades, they continued to rub shoulders until the Fains decided to sell to the Walkers in the winter of 2020. 

The Fain’s brand is prolific. It can be found in hundreds of H-E-B stores and other markets across the state, but it took time to make that happen.

“I guess it kinda starts in the ’30s,” Walker said.

Clinton Walker
Clinton Walker prepares a smoker, which he uses to subdue his bees while he checks their hives. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

Walker’s full name is George Clinton Walker IV. He’s also the fourth of that moniker to hustle honey. His grandfather George Clinton Walker Jr. worked part time for a beekeeper as a teen during the Great Depression, and his father, George Clinton Sr., saw the potential for sweet success. He scraped together a few hundred dollars, bought 50 hives of European honeybees, and struck out on his own.

The father-and-son team began working their bees in Milam and Lee counties, but the elder eventually migrated to the Rio Grande Valley, where prolific citrus groves promised to produce some of the best honey on earth.

“(My grandfather) did well for himself in the Valley,” Walker said. “He’d make money in spring when the orange groves would blossom then move the bees to Colorado for the summer.”

Brutal Texas summers made beekeeping difficult, so it became common practice to ship hives to cooler states like Colorado or Montana, where the bees could keep busy. This is still done today by many Texas beekeepers.

Clinton Walker
Clinton Walker shows off a slide of bees from one of his hives at Packsaddle Mountain in Llano County. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

While Clinton Walker Jr. was in the Valley, so was another honey producer, someone who already had over a decade in the game. H.E. Fain, his children, and their bees were riding the waves of orange blossoms right alongside the Walkers throughout the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. 

Unfortunately, the honey heyday didn’t last. According to Walker, the introduction of heavy-duty pesticides to the Valley led to mass bee deaths and the need for less poisonous pastures.

The Walkers and Fains took wing to Central Texas, where they’ve been ever since. The Walkers posted up in Bell, Milam, and Lee counties, while the Fains settled in Llano County. Both families continued to grow their dynasties over the ensuing decades.

“I grew up beekeeping,” Walker said. “I started working regularly in the beeyard by the time I was 12, just working bees. Spring Break was the busiest time of year, and I’d end up working all summer, too.”

He worked alongside his father and grandfather throughout his school years but took off on his own after he graduated. He spent years building a successful career in breweries and bartending, but as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the hospitality industry, he battled to keep a brewery afloat in North Carolina.

Fain's Honey
Clinton Walker fills a Fain’s jar with white brush honey, a Llano County delicacy. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

“The pandemic was the impetus to come home,” he said. “That was a struggle, but we managed to get through it at the brewery.”

Walker’s father, George Clinton Walker III, had been in talks with Keith Fain, the grandson of H.E. Fain, who was ready to retire and didn’t have an heir who wanted the business. The Walkers officially cut a deal with the Fains in 2020, and the brand changed hands. Clinton was drawn back to the bee business by the summer of 2021 for the sake of family and a chance to build on honey history.

Since his return, Walker has cooked up a line of honey wines and plans to expand into the world of honey spirits.

“We should be bottling probably 100 percent-distilled honey spirits in the next couple of months,” he said. “I’m very excited about where that could take us.”

He and his fiancee, Jordan Braschler, run the business side of Fain’s Honey, while brother Jonathan runs the beekeeping side. It’s all in the family.

“It is very cool to be a fourth-generation beekeeper Walker selling honey,” Clinton Walker said. “Fain’s has been around even longer. It’s awesome that these two brands are still going strong almost 100 years later. It’s still family-owned. It’s a different family, but it is me, my brother, and my parents running this thing.”

That’s a bee-utiful business. 

dakota@thepicayune.com