Gwen Johnson, Cowan Community Center Grow Appalachia participant didn’t learn her first lessons about beekeeping in a book, but from her grandfather as a little girl. But, she does now have the book and the resources to begin her beekeeping journey. She is one of several new beekeepers in the Grow Appalachia community and shared her thoughts on the opportunity to be the keeper of bees in a recent Grow Appalachia-Cowan Community Center Facebook post. She says it beautifully below.
I would like to thank the Grow Appalachia Project for the beekeeping equipment they have bequeathed to me. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to have honey bees.
As a little girl I helped my Dad with bees and always remember fondly lessons he taught me about bee etiquette. He taught that a calm slow hand is best when working with bees. He taught respect and courtesy was a must with bees and humans also.
I am so excited to be receiving a swarm tomorrow from my cousin Teddy… Fleming. I have been instructed to bring my hive, jacket, veil, and gloves and be there around sundown to move the swarm into their new home. I felt so blessed on Saturday to be among the kindly beekeepers as they gave instruction and at the same time helped us put together our new hives.
Yesterday I painted the hive and readied it to be the palace for a royal queen bee and her noble bee court.
I am honored to join the ranks of beekeepers. Hopefully before very long I might be able to contribute to the supply of honey the populace craves. This is an ancient, time honored, and fascinating pursuit. Thank you Grow Appalachia for giving me this opportunity.
Cowan Community Center Grow Appalachia project partnered with Letcher County Bee Keepers to make this elusive project happen this year. We had talked about it and wanted it to happen in the previous two years, but had let the bees slip away, this year it happened and we are excited and proud to be a part of this. Special thanks to Tammy Horn, Director of Coal Country Beeworks at Eastern Kentucky University for her support and handful of conversations that helped me realize and have faith in the plan. A prime example of how just a little time and encouragement can make a difference.
Her best advice was to seek out the support of Letcher County Beekeepers and plainly said this can not happen w/out Allen Myers, President of the Beekeepers. A few conversations w/Allen and we had a plan. Allen has worked with us to order the supplies. Each of the new beekeepers received the Beginning Beekeepers book, a vest, veil, gloves, smoker, hive and are now beginning to transfer their bees to their new home.
Allen and the Beekeepers association will also provide mentorship and provide technical assistance to see the bees through this first winter. New Beekeepers must join the Beekeepers association, attend meetings and should they decide this time commitment is to much, they will return all of their supplies to the beekeepers for another participant.
The new beekeepers met at the Letcher County Extension Office to assemble their new hives.
As new participants worked to assemble, lessons were being given. I picked up a few new words, but I’m not “super” yet.
I tried to get information with this blog in mind. In hindsight, my questions were pretty naïve and unrealistic. “How much honey will come from this?” I wanted to be able to say X number of gallons will be produced, calculate the cost/honey ratio. It was kindly explained, those are not questions that can be answered w/certainty, there are many variables and bees just don’t work that way. Estimates were given, but in the end, I learned so much depends on Mother Nature and we can only do our best to provide ideal circumstances, but like gardening, this project is very much faith based.
I did get one number that was pretty impressive to me. Allen estimated each of the hives could house up to 50,000 bees in a colony. That will be a quarter of a million new bees in Letcher County.
I’ll look forward to posting the progress of the bees this year and get pictures once all are settled in their new home. In the meantime, we hope to learn more about this magical world. We’ve made plans for a bee workshop at the Cowan Community Center on June 25th and end the night watching Disney’s Wings of Life outside on the big screen.
This is one of those projects that makes all of us feel so appreciative to John Paul DeJoria and the Grow Appalachia team that make this happen in our community.