Keeping the bees and getting the honey is the easy part (and fun!)
. The hard part is the marketing. If you can find a niche and sell tiny corked miracle bottles of magic organic wound-healing enzyme-packed liquid gold harvested from tiny angels with stings, you'll do great!
Ok, that is a bit thick, but IMHO the most important part really is marketing. Developing niches and the types of customers who are loyal. I'm not a marketing guy at all, and I can't do that, so I'm not going to be a full time beekeeper. I think that big operations can produce mass quantities to make it worthwhile at lower prices, but I think the smaller honey producers need a niche to thrive. To be both a successful physical laborer and a marketing guru is tricky and I think a rare trait.
There's also queens, nucs, pollination, honey/wax products, etc.
As to your overall question...I think that the nation as a whole is moving away from an agrarian society as we have for a long time. Economies of scale eliminate farmers and ranchers, and I don't think that honeybees scale as well which would explain why the #beeks and the # hives are both decreasing. There is so much uncertainty to farming so it is simpler to just have a 8-5 job (or was before last year!!).
I completely agree with all of this.
What I see around here is a real movement to local food. You need to know why your produce is better than imported or mass produced. Is it raw? Does it contain a bit of local pollen? Are your hives treatment free? Are your containers fancier?
You have to be able to explain to people why they should buy your product. It seems to me that the best salesperson is the one who absolutely loves what he/she is selling. And, be able to tell people many, many ways they can use it (make wound salves, for baking, sweeten tea, etc.)
Also, some will care about you supporting bees in their area. A lot of people have heard about the bee crisis, even nonfarmers, and will care that you are helping increase their numbers.
I think honey should be an easy sell! I have the tougher challenge of selling people on Brussels sprouts, kale and beets
At a nice resort recently that my mom treated me to, they served honey in tiny 2-tablespoon glass jars. Could you get a bunch and hand out samples? The honey would hook them. I agree with telling coworkers, using it in front of people constantly, talking about it, showing people your hives and then handing out samples. Anything that gets people talking about and/or tasting honey.
Good luck! As my kids would demonstrate, not ALL the younger generation is clueless about honey!!