I spent this morning getting ready to drive to Tucson for the 5th annual Organic Bee Keeping Conference. It will be my second visit and this year, local bee keeper Bill Walters and I are presenting: “Retailing Local Sustainable Honey”. How did I get here?
When I was getting ready for my interview to become a Whole Foods Market forager I started researching all things local. I came upon the rescue bee website Backyard Bees, operated by two wonderful women, Janet and Kelly. Before meeting them I started reading up on Colony Collapse Disorder and quickly decided I had to meet these ladies. Janet graciously invited me into her home for a honey and bee discussion. I tasted honeys from many of their hives, which are spread throughout Orange County. I learned the differences between the flora forage and honey color, thickness and taste. They showed me some of their hives and their honey room. Most importantly I started learning the art of sustainable bee keeping.
After that experience, the importance of using feral bees to populate the hives and keeping the system natural became obvious to me.
Treat-Free Beekeeping or Sustainable Bee Keeping has been around for centuries, but the current commercial bee keeping industry has only been around for about 100 years. And even 100 years ago, knowledgeable bee keepers started warning about the dangers of treating bees like livestock by breeding them to be bigger, feeding them artificial substances (instead of honey), using artificial pesticides to control pests and transporting for pollination services.
The bee colony is a magnificent example of a “perfect organism”. The colony takes care of itself better than we ever could. Our job is just to take care of the forage, but our society has not done a good job of that over the years. Mono agriculture, pesticides and especially systemic pesticides have decimated our land and contributed greatly Colony Collapse Disorder.
Spreading the word on sustainable bee keeping has become an immense passion of mine, and I have Janet and Kelly to thank for that. Along with our wonderful marketing team, they have become instrumental in promoting the beauty of our best friend the bee. Today, our Long Beach store is getting its own beehive from Janet and Kelly’s adopt a hive program. Visit their web site for great information and links. I’ll give you an update about the conference as soon as I get back.
Until the next time, try some local honey and enjoy the local path.