Airport slates 50 acres to Flight Path project

airport beeksTwo years ago, we approached Sea-Tac airport — the nation’s 15th busiest airport — about putting some beehives on their property. And doing an art exhibit inside the terminal. And turning some of the scrub land currently ridden with invasive weeds into wildflowers. And installing nesting habitat for native pollinators.

Why? If we raise local, disease-resistant and pesticide-free bees and distribute them to the local beekeepers, that will reduce our regional dependence on genetically-compromised bees from elsewhere. If we use airport property, we have much better control over the bees’ breeding ground, and can raise better bees.

If we inspire and educate people about pollinators and the need for locally-grown food, that will help the local food system grow. If we rehabilitate land right here in the city, that will reduce our dependence on fossil fuel and support our local economies. If we build habitat to support native pollinators, that will help them thrive and create ecological diversity.

The airport said: “yes!”

Flight Path - rectangle v3It took all of the two years to get to this point, and a staggering amount of work by us, our colleagues at The Common Acre (the non-profit that eventually took over sponsorship of the program) and the Port of Seattle (which runs Sea-Tac). We called the project “Flight Path: The Art+Science of Bees.” And this is just the bee-ginning.

Already we’ve installed 16 honey bee hives on the property and are beginning our queen-rearing operation. The project launch was covered by dozens of news outlets (including this one), including some comprehensive, educational articles in Crosscut Media and Yes! Magazine. A few weeks ago, in the wake of intensive publicity around our launch, the St. Louis airport announced–hey!–they’re going to put bees on their land too. And then the Port told the Flight Path team they want to dedicate 50 acres to pollinator habitat; we’re working with them to begin mulching and planting to start this fall, and install habitats for bumblebees, mason bees, and other native bees in the spring.

Site of the Flight Path art exhibit (for January 2014)

Site of the Flight Path art exhibit (for January 2014)

The Common Acre and airport curators identified an exhibit site and are gathering some of the region’s best artists, including Mandy Greer, David Lasky, Celeste Cooning, and many more.

Our goal is to make this project a model for urban agriculture everywhere: from corporate campuses to colleges and universities to cities in decay, even to vertically-farmed properties. As long as people are living in cities (and the trend only points to more and more urbanization), we need to find ways to produce food in those cities. And food needs pollinators.

“Flight Path” means not just the trajectory of planes or bees — it also means the trajectory of humans. It’s up to us to choose where we go.

Bee Talk, Marion Nestle, Bee Class, Ron Finley, yeah!

We know: we keep using exclamation points on our posts, but come on, look at all the bounty! Hope to see you at one of these events in the next two weeks!

xome architectsFirst, Friday June 14: Bob from Urban Bee will be presenting at Om Culture in Wallingford as part of the Permaculture Now series SUPPER! (Seattle Urban Permculture Practice, Education, and Resources). Bring food for Potluck at 6:30; talk starts at 7. Subjects covered: how bees went from gods to slaves; new practices in urban beekeeping; biomimicry; how a bee would ride the Tour de France; and the spirit of the hive. Gratuitous quotes from Sylvia Plath to Maurice Maeterlink to Wendell Berry. This is a really fun series and we hope you can make it!

Marion-Nestle-Books-940x626THEN, Tuesday June 18, we are proud to support the appearance of Marion Nestle, writer of the renowned FOOD POLITICS blog and numerous books on the subject. Dr. Nestle will be speaking at the Queen Anne United Methodist Church as part of their THE WELL series.  If you don’t know:

Dr. Nestle has received many awards and honors including the 2011 National Public Health Hero award from the University of California Berkeley School Of Public Health.

Dr. Nestle has written many articles and blogs regularly. Two of her books that will be of particular interest for this presentation are Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health and Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics.

BFFOn Saturday, June 23, at 10:00 am and 1:00 pm we are offering Field Sessions at the Beacon Food Forest apiary. The classes include a guided tour of the food forest (itself an amazement), plus an introduction to bees and urban beekeeping, a conversation about local food systems and more. Veils and gloves provided. Cost is $25. There are about five spots left, so get in touch now to make a reservation. Details here!

Lastly, Wednesday, June 26th, also at the Queen Anne United Methodist Church. Again we are happy to support their series THE WELL and the presentation of Ron Finley, urban gardener from Los Angeles. Listen to Ron’s TED talk here and come out to see him in person in a couple weeks.

Our Seed Mix Is In!

Seed MixOur Urban Pollinator Conservation Seed Mix is in!

Recommended by the Xerces Society for Pollinator Conservation, this mix is specially designed to provide foraging resources for a diversity of pollinators. It includes sixteen wildflower species that provide sources of nectar and pollen thoughout the growing season, and is appropriate for planting in gardens, vacant lots, industrial sites, and other urban areas.

The Seed Mix includes: Plains Coreopsis, Mexican Hat, Purple Coneflower, Blanketflower, Lance Leaf Coreopsis, Lacy Phacelia, California Poppy, Crimson Clover, Wild Bergamot, Poached Eggplant, Cosmos, Partridge Pea, Perennial Lupine, Annual Lupine, Butterfly Milkweed, and Dwarf Sunflower.

We’re packing it in sizes for parking strips (250 square feet) and yards (2500 square feet) this week! Watch this space for updates on pricing and delivery, or email us for information.

City of Roses, City of Bees

A couple readers have inquired about beekeeping resources in Portland, Oregon. And despite Seattle Magazine’s Portlandia vs. Seattle throwdown (it even featured our own—and very real—bicycle honey delivery vs. Portlandia’s fictional bicycle moving company), we figured there have to be some urban bee happenings in PDX.

Turns out there are resources–lots of them!

  • First, starting at the state level, try the Oregon State Beekeepers Association. Their website features info on regional branches, month-by-month reminders for beekeepers, resources for those looking for pollination, swarm collection, and more.
  • On the city level, beekeepers can connect with the Portland Metro Beekeepers Association. Monthly meetings happen in Oregon City, about 15 miles south of downtown. PMBA also has a Facebook group you can join.
  • The Xerces Society (named for an extinct butterfly) is a forty-year old non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of invertebrates. Among many outstanding programs, they recently launched the “Bring Back the Pollinators” campaign–which promotes not only honeybees but all kinds of pollinators and pollinator-friendly plants. Having attended workshops and read books by the Xerces Society, we can’t say enough about the high quality of their work and their national impact. If you live in Portland, it bee-hooves you to find something Xerces is doing locally and take advantage of it.
  • Livingscape is an interesting-looking garden/kitchen/outdoor store on the edge of North Portland by Emmanuel Hospital. They sell bee clothing, hive components and tools, and offer classes and gardener resources.
  • Bee Thinking is a top-bar specialist store and company, the brainchild of Matthew and Jill Reed. If you keep bees for more than a season or two, even if you start with the traditional Langstroth hive, you will inevitably consider the affordable and versatile top-bar hive. Portland joins other beekeepers like Sam Comfort and his Anarchy Apiaries in New York, or Ashland, Oregon’s own Kat Nesbit (Bliss Honeybees)—advocates of top-bar, natural beekeeping. More on that in a later post.
  • Ruhl Bee Supply is a complete bee supply store in Gladstone (you can stop there on your way to the PMBA meetings in Oregon City), just south of Portland. A full-service store, they offer classes and some good online resources including information about Urban Beekeeping and hive management.
  • While we’re talking about stores, Glory Bee Foods in Eugene should be mentioned. They have a superb online and retail store, with very helpful staff, speedy delivery, and good inventory.
  • Bee Local hosts hives and collects honey by neighborhood (a lot like Urban Bee Company here in Seattle). Run by Damian Magista, Bee Local has absolutely gorgeous packaging and website (including a beautiful video), and offers honey from four Portland neighborhoods, in addition to offering classes too.
  • Portland filmmaker Taggart Siegel produced and directed Queen of the Sun, which played the Seattle International Film Festival in 2010, preceding a theatrical release that fall. In Portland, Queen of the Sun’s release was the occasion of the Honey Bee Week, which featured a costume contest, tour of bee hives, and many other festivities. The movie was beautiful to watch, informative and inspiring, and the filmmaker offers an educational curriculum and additional resources online.
  • Another name that keeps popping up is Glen Andresen, beekeeping veteran of 30 years. He teaches workshops and lessons on beekeeping, particularly treatment-free, natural beekeeping. Isn’t it interesting (though not particularly surprising) how people keeping bees for a long time advocate the “less is more” approach? Glen sounds like something of a local treasure.
  • Portland, being Portland, is full of additional happenings and resources. Just this February, for instance, Shining Star Waldorf School hosted a “Festival of the Bees” with all kinds of demonstrations of bees and hive products, as well as opportunities to learn more about Waldorf (an educational practice founded by Rudolf Steiner, who wrote and lectured on bees in the 1920s).

Even though I live in Seattle, my wife is from Portland, and we visit family and friends in the area regularly. An uncle-in-law keeps bees in Oregon City, and a cousin-in-law is thinking about starting something up in Forest Grove. We look forward to checking out some of Portland’s finest beekeeping resources in person.

If you’re there now, count yourself lucky and make your own bee story!