By Dilyn Del Rosario (she, her) – SOU Student
The apiary project stems from a desire to help maintain a safe home for pollinators in the Ashland area. This stage of the apiary project was proposed to the Environmental Affairs Committee by Elizabeth Mackey, SOU student and creator of the Pollinator Club here on campus. As a result of this proposal, the Farm was recently granted a sum from the Green Fund to be spent over three years for several apiary related purchases and payments. This includes purchases of honeybee hives, hive-body hardware, and related supplies such as beekeeping suits and scientific monitoring tools. The sum will also be utilized through compensating student workers, conducting quality apicultural research, paying for Oregon Master Beekeeper courses, and hiring an Oregon Master Beekeeper who can provide on-site mentorship. These purchases and payments will help ensure a successful program where students can learn fundamental apiary skills and experience the wonders of pollinators firsthand.
Ashland has an extremely biodiverse and unique ecological environment that already supports organisms that are rare, or even endemic, such as moths and butterflies. However, climate change presents a threat to these pollinators and their necessary habitats. When asked how the apiary project might be ecologically advantageous, Mackie responded, “by adding bees to campus and by having them to help us maintain pollinator habitats…it will create these lush, thriving pollinator habitats that will also be accessible to these native pollinator species that need additional habitat refuges.” This would provide meaningful support to the different species living in Ashland which would in turn help the plant population reproduce and continue to provide all that they do. This would also give SOU students the opportunity to appreciate and observe the natural world as it thrives around them.
Projects such as this are supported by the students of SOU! As a part of SOU’s student fee, the green tag builds up a sum of money that is located in the Green Fund. Any student at SOU can send in an application to request funds from the Green Fund. The project must be sustainable and account for all of the money allocated for the request. The request is brought to the Environmental Affairs Committee for a vote to approve or disapprove. If the monetary request is more than $5,000, it is brought to the Sustainability Council to get a recommendation before the Environmental Affairs Committee can vote on the project. This is one of many ways that SOU encourages the community to support the environment and fight against climate change. The Green Fund allows SOU students to have the opportunity to change the world around them for the better!
Although bees have been housed on the Farm for several years, there was never a financially supported system structured to care for them. This was the issue that led to Mackey applying for use of the Green Fund. Mackey explained, “we recognized that need for both finances but also really for mentorship and people support, and building some sort of sustainable system for passing institutional knowledge – not only about just beekeeping processes in general but also about our bees on the farm from student to student and staff to staff.” This idea of a sustainable system would lead to a benefit for not only the bees on the Farm but for all pollinators in the area.
Image Text: Pollinator Habitat, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, Planted for pollinators and protected from pesticides. Join in at xerces.org.
Students will have the opportunity to explore the world of beekeeping through paid positions on the Farm. This would be the beginning of a program that will essentially function as a mentorship program. The first group of student workers will be trained by an Oregon Master Beekeeper in how to properly care for the bees. This group of trained students will begin to pass on their knowledge to future students who may be picking up the mantle. As the students continue to train, they will begin to pick up more responsibilities until they can train new students and the self-supporting cycle begins anew. These student workers would not only be working with the bees on the Farm, but they would also serve as collaborators in the conversations surrounding expansion and the future of the apiary project. As a long term goal, this project hopes to spread throughout the SOU campus in areas where both students and bees can continue to thrive in safety. Future students in the program would be privy to such conversations and could even be directly involved in the next steps this project takes. When asked about an estimated timeline for this project to be put into action, Mackey said, “we would love to start sometime this spring. As soon as we can, we want to get started!”
Dr. Vincent Smith, the SOU faculty project liaison for the apiary project, has been working alongside Elizabeth Mackey to see this project come to fruition. Dr. Smith and a handful of colleagues have envisioned further student involvement through a future degree seeking program in agriculture. This program would be highly beneficial to future farmers located in Southern Oregon since there are very few agricultural programs offered in the area. Students in this program would directly benefit from the hands-on experience provided by the apiary project. Having the bees at the Farm would allow the educators working in this program easy access to a learning environment that might otherwise not be possible.
If you are interested in learning more about the apiary project, please contact Elizabeth Mackey at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are interested in filling out a Green Fund application for a sustainable project or if you have any questions about how the Green Fund works, please contact the ASSOU Sustainability Director at email@example.com