RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) – If you take a trip to the Sankofa Community Orchard, you’ll find more than 20,000 bees working together. The bees are part of a new experience in the city of Richmond called City Bees RVA.
“The Sankofa community orchard is a great place to have bees. There are so many crops here and flowers here,” explained beekeeper Dr. Hollee Freeman. “There’s so much to pollinate, which helps the garden, doesn’t it? If their mission is to feed people, it’s perfect to have bees here.
Freeman works alongside local beekeeper Nikiya Ellis, to help demystify bees and teach the community about their importance.
“In general, bees pollinate 80% of our food resources. We have to protect them. Our goal is to increase the population of honey bees, which is one of the greatest pollinators,” she said.
As an educator and author, Freeman says she has always had an interest in nature. She first contacted Ellis to interview him about farming, but then found out she was also a beekeeper. Dr. Freeman became Ellis’ apprentice. Both now offer City Bees RVA:
City Bees is an engaging educational program that demystifies our understanding of bees and helps educate the community about the importance of bees in our lives.
City Bees allows participants to get an overview of a hive through safe interaction with local bees guided by two local beekeepers (black, female). During this program, participants will gain a better understanding of the work of beekeeping (including apiary inspections and hive management), the sacred history and biology of bees, weather and climate influences, environmental justice, etc
City Bees takes place in person at a local orchard/farm in the Greater Richmond area. The programs take place over the weekend and are followed by a tea party and a question-and-answer session with the beekeepers. Attendees will also be able to taste local honey and learn how they can support sustainable development efforts in the region. Running time: approximately 90 minutes. Activity fee: $50 per person
City Bees RVA can accommodate children (8 years and over) and their families or groups of up to 5 people. City Bees RVA also works with groups of students, providing similar experiences using a viewing hive if needed.
In case of bad weather, programming will take place the following Sunday, if necessary. If rebooking is not an option, you can take advantage of an in-depth observation hive survey at a discounted rate.
“Bees are interesting and fun and they live in colonies and they all have jobs and they work together. Could it be a metaphor for the way we live and work together? she says.
For 90 minutes, people aged 8 and over have the opportunity to put on a beekeeping costume and interact with the hive. The experience ends with tea, snacks, a question-and-answer session and a discussion with the beekeepers.
Inspired by her work with Ellis, Freeman wrote a book called “Beekeeping Besties: An Apiary Adventure”.
As she learns more about beekeeping, Freeman says the work also has a cultural meaning and connection that she hopes to share with others.
“I find the sanctity of beekeeping dates back to ancient Egypt and so as a black woman, I respond to that,” Freeman said. “It’s soothing to be here (with the bees), there’s a kind of meditative, quiet, vibrational frequency that hits me at a very deep ancestral level.”
In ancient Egypt, beehives were not in wooden boxes, but rather made of mud and clay. To pollinate the flowers, the hives were stacked in pyramids and traveled up and down the Nile on rafts.
It’s important to Freeman to share the story.
“I absolutely want to share the love of beekeeping and ecology with everyone – but most of all I want black and Latino people and students to understand (it’s ancestral),” she explained. .
In the first few months of offering City Bees RVA, Freeman has seen groups of all ages get excited about the hands-on experience. She hopes people will not only walk away with new knowledge and appreciation for bees, but also a little more confidence in them.
“If you can be confident doing that, you can be confident in school, on your skateboard, doing your debate club,” Freeman said. “It’s just a window to help people address things they might not know and lead them to other things (in life).”
If you are interested in City Bees RVA, you can click here to register.
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