UMass Keeps Bees!

BEE4_INTERIOR-1540x1026Meandering the Renaissance Center’s Great Meadow on a sunlit summer afternoon, you might spy three squat maroon and white structures near the central copse of trees. As you draw closer, you notice the air traffic and soft drone of golden, fuzzy honeybees on their foraging missions.

These structures are the new hives of the UMass Bee Club, currently 100 students strong and growing. Many members, such as incoming president Alexandra Graham, joined because of their concern over threats to the bee population, and the future diversity of our food supply.

“I first became interested in bees a few years back when I learned about colony collapse disorder and started Googling,” relates Graham. “Turns out bees are the coolest ever, and I immediately fell in love. So as soon as I found out about UMass beekeeping I jumped right in.”

IMG_3168The Great Meadow backs up to the Agricultural Learning Center, a demonstration facility that allows students to get hands-on experience with bees.  (Click here for a story on the Stockbridge Pollinator Garden).

Massachusetts Agricultural College was the first college to offer a formal beekeeping program. When Butterfield was still a field, and Orchard Hill an orchard, the eastern edge of campus buzzed with fifty working hives and a dedicated Apiary Laboratory.

But after the last beekeeping professor retired in the late 1960s, the program went dormant. The tradition was revived when founder Eamon McCarthy-Earls ’15, a backyard beekeeping enthusiast, arrived on campus. He founded the club in 2012, at first working with entomology research hives.

Beekeeping is a practice passed down through generations. As many lifelong apiarists are aging, in order to ensure the survival and diversity of healthy populations of bees, “to have youth interested in beekeeping right now is really important,” remarks Jarrod Fowler ’14G, pollinator expert at the Agricultural Learning Center.

The club’s goals are to establish a sustainable productive apiary on campus, create a resilient modern beekeeping program, and optimize the already pollinator-friendly Great Meadow as a pristine meadowland with even greater forage for bees.

But for the short term, says Graham, “we’re just caring for the hives and inspiring more people to learn about bees. We’re excited to be able to offer hands-on experience to our members.” She adds, “eventually there will be honey, and honey means extracting and filtering and bottling and all sorts of other fun things.”

Both on campus and culturally, says Earls, “we’re revitalizing a cultural heritage.”

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NOTE:  To join the club, “like” them on Facebook or contact them at; umassbeeclub@gmail.com. The Stockbridge School of Agriculture plans on offering a new course called Practical Beekeeping in the spring of 2016.  Watch for STOCKSCH 166.

High school students explore the world of farming, food at UMass

By Diane Lederman | dlederman@repub.com 
The Republican – August 04, 2015
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AMHERST – In recent years, the University of Massachusetts has offered a number of summer programs, but until this year a program in sustainable agriculture was missing.

Ten students from around the country came to campus to the one-week program the last week of July. Their only regret was it wasn’t two weeks long.

UMass Stockbridge School of Agriculture instructor Sarah Berquist taught the program on sustainability and food systems.

She said the summer is perfect for a program like this because “harvest is abundant.” And she said the program “is a great opportunity to spread the word about our great program.”

Students learned how the food system in the country operates. They worked with on the UMass student farm in South Deerfield and got the chance to talk to the student farmers.

They worked in the Food for All Garden at UMass, a garden that provides organic produce to places such as the Amherst Survival Center and Not Bread Alone soup kitchen.

On the last day, they were learning about permaculture with a tour of the five-year-old Franklin Dining Commons garden.

Sixteen-year-old Anna Stone came from New York City already aware about poverty and the struggles for food seeing the myriad homeless in the streets.

She is interested in “revitalizing poor communities through urban farms.”

She was learning more about the farm bill and farm systems and the agricultural industry.

UMass permaculture garden manager at UMass talks to students taking part in a one-week campus program.

“I hadn’t studied permaculture.

“I want to bring those techniques back,” she said.

Brett Koslowsky, 17, from Cambridge was also enjoying the “overview, the states of a different areas.”

She too is interested in agriculture and is a member of the Belmont High School’s Garden and Food Justice Club. She attends that school.

Both said they might be interested in coming to the UMass sustainable agricultural program now that they know about.

Jenna Carellini, 18, of Fishkill New York, wants to study nutrition and took a nutrition program last year but that was in the lab.

She wanted “a hands on approach” and was enjoying that with the week.

Berquist said they capped the program at 10 and had a few more applicants than spaces. She said they’d like to bring it back next summer and perhaps extend it and open it up to more people.

“Their passion for the topic is incredible,” she said of her students. She was impressed “to see people (their age) with that much interest and knowledge.”

She said they want to be “ambassadors for change.”

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