State enjoying revival in beekeeping industry
FREEHOLD (Oct. 1, 2017) — Every year at the Monmouth County Fair, patrons find a large tent near the other agricultural tents devoted to the Central New Jersey Beekeepers Association.
The tent and participation in all seven nights of the fair is part of the regular outreach done by members of the Central New Jersey Beekeepers Association.
They sell a lot of honey and wax candles to support some of their other activities, such as Family Bee Day, held every year in May in Wall Township.
There are more than 3,000 beekeepers in the state, with the larger operations based in southern New Jersey, but in northern and central New Jersey, there are dozens of backyard beekeepers, said president Geff Vitale, formerly of Bradley Beach, now of Kingwood in Hunterdon County.
The Central New Jersey Beekeepers Association has about 250 active members and was founded in 1956, Vitale said.
“I’m not sure what town it was founded in, but it began as just a couple of beekeepers meeting for a social hour, and Central New Jersey was one of the longest running clubs,” Vitale explained, “after that came the state organization. Now we have ten chapters around the state.”
Vitale, a software salesman with OpenText, grew up in West Paterson, now known as Little Falls or Woodland Park. He grew up on the side of a mountain and went to Penn State to study wildlife and fisheries management. After college he moved to Bradley Beach, which is where he started raising bees. He recently bought a 30-acre hay farm in Kingwood, a rural town in Hunterdon County.
“We bought it as a hay farm, installed the bees and now I have all of my bees in one place,” Vitale said, adding he’s planning on growing hazelnut trees on his property as well. He has 20 hives on his property in Kingwood and is able to work out of his home office for his job with OpenText.
“All three avocations are part-time things,” Vitale said. “The bees don’t need us all the time, the hazelnuts won’t need us all the time and the hay farmers are already working there.”
Central New Jersey Beekeepers hold meetings on a quarterly basis and they publish four newsletters each year. Vitale said most meetings have guest speakers who address a variety of concerns, including illnesses and viruses that afflict bees and how to get more productivity out of hives.
“Recently we had one gentleman who has a tree removal service, so he demonstrated how to get beehives out of old, rotten trees,” he said.
The next big event for the Central New Jersey Beekeepers Association will be Thompson Park Day in Holmdel on Oct. 15.
“We are always open to do other events. It all comes down to timing and staffing,” Vitale said.
Part of their overall mission is to educate the general public about the benefits and safety level of having local beekeepers, he added.
“Anyone can attend one of our meetings to learn more about beekeeping, but if they want to attend a second meeting, they have to join up with us,” Vitale added. Central New Jersey Beekeepers can be found on the web at CJBA.org.
“What we tell everybody is, if you want to get into beekeeping, take a course first,” he said, “you’ll get hands-on experience and you can see what’s involved.”
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