Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Surprise! You're a Beekeeper. Part II

Tim asked me to share stories on the blog about things I didn’t expect to be true when I started out this spring as a fledgeling beekeeper. Read Part I here. Part II follows.

You will make friends

As Tim’s most recent posts demonstrate, the beekeeping community is close-knit.  I’ve been interested in urban food system reform (especially at the community level) for a while now, and it’s how I make my living, but before getting started as a beekeeper I had no meaningful way to add value to community gardens besides showing up and asking to be taught how to weed properly.

Since starting out as a beekeeper I've gotten to know people in my own community in a way I couldn’t have before. I’m being asked to do rotations at gardens in different parts of Brooklyn by super-established beekeepers so that the gardens can have more pollinator-action and teaching moments. I’ve met Meg Paska, the Brooklyn Homesteader, Annie Novak, founder of Eagle Street Farm, Chase Emmons of the Brooklyn Grange, and countless others. And I can show up to farmers markets anywhere and strike up conversations with vendors about their wares.

80 years of beekeeping experience.
Photo by Kirk Anderson

I’ve met other fellow bee geeks across the country. When folks come to town from the west coast, they want to see what’s going on here. So two weeks ago we had a visit from Kirk Anderson of Backwards Beekeepers. Earlier this year I ran a campaign on CCD through my employer and founded a relationship with an amazing beekeeper in Chicago who uses beekeeping as an urban rehabilitation tool. It’s even brought me closer to my aunt and uncle in rural Pennsylvania, who are pretty active old-school homesteaders who keep to themselves but raise cattle, harvest fruit trees, make preserves, and keep bees.

People like bees, they just don't know it yet.
Photo by Kirk Anderson

On a global level, I have a friend in Nigeria who’s building up the local economy through apiculture. And I’ve reconnected with a college friend who’s doing agroforestry and apiculture in Cambodia through the Peace Corps.

My original interest in this hobby was to geek out as a lifelong bug lover and to experience the inner workings of a eusocial society firsthand. But I’ve come to see that there’s much more to be gained in my own social life from beekeeping and should you too choose to start up a few hives, I’m certain that you’ll find the same to be true.

Photo by Theadora Tolkin

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