As a graduate of Northwestern University’s film school, Jay Williams found early success as a cinematographer, working behind the camera on iconic American television shows such as Seinfeld and J.A.G. He helped launch the Travel Channel with a show called Beach Diaries, serving as its host and profiling exotic locales across the globe. But all of that left him unfulfilled—he realized that his want to help people required a more personal connection.
Williams became a firefighter in Los Angeles, where he could be a part of team that saved lives and comforted people in their most trying moments. A native of Westchester County, New York, just outside the city, he had never considered living in a more suburban environment. But when his sister, also an actor, married a country music star, Williams and his wife, Adrienne, could see themselves starting a family in a place like Nashville.
He joined the fire department in Brentwood, Tennessee, where the 48 hours on/ 96 hours off schedule gave him time to pursue some passions. And when an article in the local newspaper described the plight of honeybees, he found a new one. Today, Williams Honey Farm manages millions of bees across middle Tennessee, including approximately 3.5 million in 35 colonies on the Farm at Southall. Williams leverages his interest in education and knack for connecting with people to establish and grow hives, reversing the trend of bee decline while creating advocates for pollinators and inspiring the next generation of beekeepers.
At Southall, both honeybees and native species – mason bees, leafcutters and others – are used to increase harvest yields on a range of crops, both in the greenhouses and outdoors, such as in the apple orchard and among gardens dotted throughout the property. The bees produce pollen that is collected for culinary use, as well as honey that is timed for a flavor complexity that features hints of everything from the American elm of late February to the clover and basswood of the summer.
Throughout the season, Williams and the beekeeping team are always looking for the chance to show guests the inside of a honeybee hive, and to share their love for the ways in which these amazing insects help sustain the circle of life at Southall.