Getting Schooled

I love learning.  Having a farm seems to require it.  There is always something unexpected happening that requires immediate knowledge in an unexpected domain.  So it is fun to pass on some of our learning.  I spend a lot of time working on my bee education in the form of the NC Master Beekeeper program.  It requires thorough knowledge and mastery of all topics of bee biology, management, processing, & stewardship.  Teaching and outreach is a big part of the requirements.  We’ve done a lot so far this year: helping with senior projects, elementary school projects, local outreach, and newbie mentoring.  Good stuff.

Months back Hana, a Middle Creek High School senior, contacted me about her senior project about honeybees.  I met her mom at a farmer’s market during the year and she followed up).  Hana was interested in what people could do to help the struggling bee population.  She did an impressive amount of research and crafted a thoughtful paper.  But the project required getting your hands dirty, or sticky.  So Hana came over for a visit to the bee yard.  Together we inspected a hive.  Kudos to her for the bravery to jump in for research sake.  I think she even enjoyed it or at least appreciated the monumental work the bees do.  Her project included a slideshow, essay & video.  She gave me permission to post some of it here.  Well done Hana!

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Hana putting on a brave face to visit our bees

A few weeks back I also had the pleasure of helping out an investigative group from Exploris Elementary school.  Ms. Ruto’s 4th/5th grade class selected honeybees for their research & assist project.  One sunny March day, I had the pleasure of hosting them at our bee yard at Ninja Cow Farm in Garner.  They already knew quite a bit from other research but we talked habitat loss and what everyday folks can do to help bees.  In small groups, they tried being a forager bee in a scavenger hunt, made pollinator seed balls, and inspected a hive with me.  A day to remember for me and hopefully them too.

And all the while I’ve started mentoring some new beekeepers.  This is the biggest benefit of bee club membership – finding someone to ask those newbie questions.  There is so much new & unfamiliar that it is helpful to get another opinion when things seem blurry.  I think most beekeepers, regardless of experience, have a mentor.  Someone to bounce ideas off or think through challenges.  I have several I call on.  I got to help a mentee (?) inspect a new hive this spring.  How fun to watch someone building their skills and getting swept away by the fascination of bees!  I got thanked by a big fat sting on the face.  My lip swelled up so much I couldn’t even eat my humble pie.

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Rebecca’s drawing of her duck encounter

We love hosting friends and customers to visit our farm babies & hives.  And having kids take an interest in our business is the best!  There are no greater ambassadors of farming than baby animals.  Chicks and ducks top the list for fluffability.  Getting kids (and adults) interested in sustainable food production is easy when they can see and touch a well cared for animal.  Plus it sneaks in a little science when no one is looking.

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Danica with a spring duckling

We aren’t quite ready to open the farm gates wide for the public.  But we are able to invite more and more folks out to see and experience what we are working on.  For those who can’t make it to us, we have several outreach events coming up.  Pollinator festivals in both Chatham and Wake Counties plus several farmers market events.  And as I continue on my Master Beekeeper path, I’ll be attending conferences & workshops throughout the year like this one.  Everything in an effort to keep learning & growing the farm without getting schooled.

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