Next Generation Beekeepers

Tools of the TradeAt this very moment, my organization, Bee Girl, is running a survey to help the beekeeping industry get a grasp on the beekeeper demographic in this country:  male, female, younger, older, how many hives, etc.  The last survey, conducted by Bee Culture Magazine in 2007, pointed to the fact that the average beekeeper is 70 years old, and beekeepers under 40 make up a mere 8% of our industry!  I have a feeling this statistic is starting to change, which motivated me to run this survey.

Upon reading the 2007 report, I and then-President of the Western Apicultural Society (WAS) and my former honeybee professor, Dr. Jerry Bromenshenk, decided to move into action to change this statistic… with free beer.  In 2014, we held the first Next Generation Beekeepers Late Night Breakout Session at the WAS conference in Missoula, MT.  About 35 young beekeepers came to the conference, and attended our “breakout,” a vast attendance record compared to the attendance of those under 40 at past Bee Girl Logoconferences.


The “next-gen” beekeepers enthusiastically participated in an evening of music, custom made honey lavender ice cream, free beer, and a very productive breakout session.  The breakout / brainstorming part of the evening was facilitated by myself, Scott Debnam, Bee Girl organization board member and University of Montana Ph.D. student, and John Miller, beekeeper, known for his roles in the film “More Than Honey” and the book, “The Beekeepers Lament.”  Read the notes here.

This enthusiasm gave way to a new program at the Bee Girl organization called “The Next Generation Beekeepers Initiative.”  This is an initiative to identify problems that plague the beekeeping industry, and create action-oriented solutions for beekeepers and their communities to take part in.  We aim to listen to beekeepers who have a lot to say, but wouldn’t usually take to the conference podium to express their ideas.  The initiative also aims to bring more young beekeepers to national and regional conferences.  The networking, learning, and leadership opportunities are endless, and we want the next generation to feel welcome!

Moving the HivesWhat's a next generation beekeeper? “Next-Gen” is defined as “the step forward that perpetually propels us into our impending destiny.” We are the next generation in our family of beekeepers; we are the drivers of the next stage of development in the products, services, expertise and knowledge our industry provides. This beekeeper is a commercial or small-scale beekeeper, or works as an educator or researcher. They are passionate about bees and want to be involved in future beekeeping innovations, research, policy, technology, advocacy or community leadership.

Myself and Dr. Noah Wilson-Rich, of the Best Bees Company and TED Talk fame, will be co-hosting a Next Generation Breakout Session at the 2016 Eastern Apicultural Society (EAS) conference in New Jersey this July.  EAS is a fantastic and high-quality conference with endless opportunities for learning, networking and having some fun!

We hope to see you there this summer!  In the meantime, if you are a beekeeper in the US, please take two minutes to complete our brief survey before March 18th.

For more information on the Next Generation Beekeepers Initiative and our other programs, please visit www.beegirl.org.

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Sarah Bee Girl

 

Submitted by Sarah Red-Laird at Bee Girl

Sarah Red-Laird is the founder and executive director of the Bee Girl organization, a nonprofit with a mission to inspire and empower communities to conserve bees and their habitat. She is a graduate of the University of Montana's College of Forestry and Conservation with a degree in Resource Conservation, focused on community collaboration and environmental policy.  Aside from running the Bee Girl organization’s six programs, Sarah is the US Ambassador of the International Bee Research Association's (IBRA) BEEWORLD project, the Kids and Bees Director for the American Beekeeping Federation, a New York Bee Sanctuary Advisory Board member, an active member of the Northwest Farmers Union, the Western Apicultural Society’s Oregon Director and the Regional Representative for the Southern Oregon Beekeepers Association.  When she is not tirelessly working with bees, beekeepers, kids, farmers, land managers and policymakers, Sarah heads for the hills with a camera, large backpack, fishing rod, bike or snowboard and her best friend Sophie the yellow lab.