Our farm is a finalist for a $10,000 "Cultivating Change" grant! If we win, we would use the grant funds to increase the apiary (more bees, new hives, and bigger electric fence), and to contribute toward the purchase of a 4WD vehicle to safely transport bees and people.
The winner will be decided by online votes in January, so we need your help to win. Voting only takes a minute (you'll need to give your email address to register), and each person can vote once per day.
You can sign up right here to vote for us to win! (Note this form will direct you away from this page, and you’ll have another chance to sign up at the bottom if you want to read through first).
Riding in Cars with Bees
Our most pressing need is a dependable vehicle. Until recently, we had an old Ford Explorer, but the truck was retired this year. It is extremely challenging to transport bees and bee equipment in Ruby’s 20-year-old two-wheel drive compact car. The apiary is located more than two hours from our home, over several mountain passes, culminating in an unmaintained dirt road to get to the farm. Conditions can be dangerous in inclement weather, and the route is best driven a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
Ruby typically makes the four-hour roundtrip journey several times per week - sometimes the car is full of farm equipment, soil, or tools but often, the car is full of bees. When she purchases new hives or brings the bees to pollinate local organic farms, she must transport several hives at once, and they won't all fit in the trunk. There is no alternative other than to drive with bees in the back seat, stopping frequently along the way to release escapees. It will be a game changer to have a proper vehicle that would allow Ruby to safely transport the bees -- and all their bulky equipment -- to and from the apiary in a separate compartment.
Ruby’s Goals for Apiary Expansion
I successfully established the apiary in 2017 with two hives, and increased to five hives overwintering in 2018. In 2019, I will increase the apiary to at least 10-15 hives: this expansion plan requires infrastructure to support sustainable growth. Creating a larger apiary requires building more benches (the bee hives must be sited a few feet off the ground) and building more bee boxes to house the bees. These additional hives and benches will require an expansion of the existing solar-powered electric fence which surrounds the apiary to protect the hives from predators including bears and skunks.
Of course, apiary expansion also means I need more bees! The most important outcome for the apiary is to raise bees that are best suited to thrive in the local climate. When expanding the apiary, the goals are two-fold:
1. To increase by splitting our hives and encouraging the bees to raise their own locally adapted queens.
2. To introduce new genetics that improve and diversify the gene pool with characteristics that increase hardiness to local conditions by purchasing nucleus ("nuc") hives and queens from reputable sources with successful genetic lines.
I will split healthy, thriving hives in spring of 2019; some of the "splits" will raise their own queens, and some will be re-queened with new genetics. We will purchase up to five nucleus hives, plus five queen bees to add Russian and Saskatraz genetic lines to the apiary. These breeds of bees are uniquely adapted and evolved to thrive in the rugged climate of Oregon's Klamath Mountains.
Bees - $1,325= 5 nucleus hives ($225 each) & 5 queen bees ($40 each)
Bee Equipment - $2,150 - 10 Hive Bodies ($150 each), 3 Benches ($50 each), Electric fence materials ($525).
4WD Vehicle - $6,500 in Grant Funds (plus funds from our savings, since the full cost is estimated at $10,000-$12,000)
Why This Matters
Honey bees, native bees, and other pollinators are declining - and our farm is uniquely poised to support both our honey bee colonies and our native pollinators. The apiary abuts 2.3 million acres of wilderness land in the Fremont-Winema National Forest, where the bees forage on a plethora of wildflowers from early spring through late fall.
Our land management strategies are designed to increase and strengthen the natural biodiversity of the ecosystem, for example raising native mason and leaf-cutter bees as well as our honey bees, and planting native wildflowers and trees.
Organic farming creates a safe environment for bees and pollinators. Healthy bees mean better pollination, which results in greater crop yields for the farm.
Some of the world's most pressing problems can be addressed by supporting small farms and apiaries like ours that prioritize restoration of habitat, support for native species, and farming in harmony with nature.