Beekeeping collective expands to Virginia
With expanded funding, a project to promote beekeeping as a career opportunity and economic driver in the Appalachian region is moving into Virginia.
The Appalachian Beekeeping Collective Diversification and Expansion Project received a $622,280 grant in October from the Appalachian Regional Commission for the endeavor.
The grant will enable five Virginia counties to join the 17 West Virginias that have been part of the program. The Virginia counties are Allegheny, Craig, Giles, Montgomery and Pulaski.
“Beekeeping offers extraordinary job opportunities,” Terri Giles, vice president for government relations for Appalachian Headwaters, a Leesburg, W.Va., non-profit organization that manages the program, said in a recent telephone interview. “A part-time beekeeper can supplement a family income to rise above the poverty line,” Giles said.
“A dedicated full-time beekeeper can earn an enviable living. Beekeeping is also an ideal job opportunity for people recovering from opioid addiction as it provides a relatively stress-free form of agriculture, a non-traditional work environment and hours and the therapeutic practice of producing something tangible in an outdoor setting.”
Giles is a West Virginia native who has spent much of her life working in economic development. Her career included working with the late Sen. Robert Bird in Washington, D.C.
She said she sees West Virginia and regions of Virginia as places where resources have been extracted for the benefit of those outside of the area rather than for those living and working there.
Giles is enthusiastic about the potential she believes beekeeping offers the area and in reversing the effects of that traditional extraction.
She added she hopes selling the commodities produced by the bees, including honey and wax to high-end markets is a way to bring money back to the area.
She said the area is rich in a band of native deciduous trees that can generate more nectar than many other plants.
While much is written about helping displaced coal miners with new income sources, Giles sees a broader need. She believes beekeeping can help many other people who have lost their livelihood stay in their homes and have a part-time or full-time income source.
She also sees it as a tool in restoring lives fractured by the opioid crisis that plagues the area.
“Over the last year three years, Appalachian Headwaters has developed a corps of skilled beekeepers in southern West Virginia, she wrote. “Our program is thriving. The hives of our inaugural class of 35 beekeepers had a more than 90 percent survival rate in their first season.
Thirty-four of 35 beekeepers have chosen to stay in the program and many will expand their apiaries in the first year.”
She believes that the free five-week series of two-hour classes will help the people bring back their traditions of helping themselves and being part of a community.
The classes are open to anyone interested in beekeeping regardless of experience or the lack thereof, economic standing or age.
The Appalachian Headwaters staff is working to complete the details of moving into Virginia.
As these come together information will be available for those wishing to take the course.
Giles said hundreds of people have participated in the West Virginia classes. The classes have consistently attracted more than 50 people in each county each year.
For more information contact the organization at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1-800-634-5021 410-822-3965 Fax- 410-822-5068
P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925