Have you ever daydreamed about quitting your day job for a side passion?
Kate Franzman is proof it can be done, having bid farewell to her 9 to 5 office job at an ad agency to pursue life as an urban farmer and beekeeper. When her Nice Grants application came through for Bee Public, we were intrigued. Our $1,000 grant would go a long way to help Kate with expenses of beekeeping classes and setting up her first hive.
Her interest in beekeeping began while reading about urban homesteading, backyard chickens and other farming blogs and books. Some of Kate's friends in Fletcher Place agreed to let her keep her first hive in their back yard. A Nice Grant came her way. Things were looking up for Kate's "bee-ventures," as she calls them.
Bee Public began with the original mission to put a hive in the most "urban" places imaginable – places like rooftops, fire escapes. But Kate soon realized she could have a bigger impact by teaming up with urban farmers to increase the amount of fresh, local produce in our city. We got the chance to ask Kate a few questions about her bee-ventures.
Kate: Bees are fascinating – the way they work together as a collective super-organism. I'm constantly learning about why and how they do things. There's a lot of drama in a bee's world. Maybe the bees don't recognize it as drama, but I do.
And there's a lot of buzz (pun intended) about bee troubles. What gives?
Kate: No bees = no food. One in every three bites of food we eat was made possible by a bee, because of pollination. But bees are in big trouble because of Colony Collapse Disorder, pesticides, lack of food, etc. Survival rate for a hive of bees is about 50%.
People might not think of bees as a city thing. Why urban beekeeping?
Kate: Urban beekeeping may hold an answer to the bee troubles. Cities have a more diverse array of plants, less exposure to pesticides and chemicals used in rural farm operations. Cities are good for bees, and bees are good for cities.
How does one go about becoming an urban beekeeper? What kinds of resources are available?
Kate: If you want to learn the ropes the old timers, get linked in with the Indiana Beekeepers Association. They hold monthly meetings and offer "bee school." Having a beekeeper to mentor you is priceless. That said, there are other, maybe more impactful ways to help bees. Planting flowers that bloom throughout the spring, summer, and fall provides food for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. Also, don't use pesticides or weed killers on your lawn or garden.
Okay – we have to know: how's the honey, and where can we get some?
Kate: Oh, man. It's good. I had a little taste of their spring honey. It's really light. I won't actually harvest honey until next year. The bees need to keep it, that's what they eat to survive the winter. Where can you get some? Stay tuned.
(Photo by Kate, "New comb, white as snow." Taken at Growing Places Indy Slow Food Garden at Cottage Home)
Kate now keeps five hives - the original in Fletcher Place, plus additional locations at South Circle Farm, Arlington Farms, Big City Farms and Growing Places Indy Slow Food Garden. Bee Public's mission is to increase the honeybee population in Indianapolis – one hive at a time, and to support our local sustainable food system with pollination and cultivated relationships with urban farmers.