Nova Scotia

Young beekeepers in Halifax turning honey into skills, scholarships

Amateur beekeeping is alive and well in Halifax, thanks to a social enterprise launched four years ago as youth program in several at-risk communities across the municipality.

BEEA Honey with Heart is a youth-run social enterprise started by the non-profit Family SOS

A BEEA participant opens a hive in the Halifax community of Spryfield to check on the bees inside. (Robert Short/CBC)

Amateur beekeeping is alive and well in Halifax, thanks to a social enterprise launched four years ago as youth program in several at-risk communities across the municipality.

BEEA Honey with Heart was started as an afterschool program by the non-profit Family SOS and has since expanded to include 19 hives and around 30 participants at five sites across the Halifax region. It will expand into two more communities in the coming weeks.

Kimberly Drisdelle, the program facilitator, said the project is entirely youth-run, with local teens working at several levels within the business. Duties range from managing the hives and collecting honey, to entrepreneurial and leadership roles in marketing and selling the honey products.

"We empower them to go into the hives. They have to be able to communicate really well with each other," she told CBC's Information Morning.

"Obviously, it can be very unnerving to have a bunch of buzzing bees around you as you're doing this, so they have to be able to keep their communication skills high while sort of keeping their nerves down."

Drisdelle said beekeeping has many transferable skills, including learning to keep a cool head in high-stress situations.

BEEA participants debriefing with program facilitator Kimberly Drisdelle (middle) after checking hives in Spryfield. (Robert Short/CBC)

Participants who complete all levels of the program can apply for post-secondary scholarships that are funded through sales of honey products, which are sold at the Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market.

"Any honey that we do sell, or any of our products, goes back into scholarships, and back into the program to expand it," Drisdelle said.

Spryfield BEEA beekeeper Melissa Walters has just graduated high school. She said BEEA has inspired her post-secondary choice — community development at Acadia University, a program some of her mentors at Family SOS have attended.

Walters lives down the road from the hives she services. She said they've become a point of contact for her community.

"We have a lot of kids and adults come in from around the community just to peek in and check on the bees. It's really been a community hub for us," she said.

A selection of BEEA honey products, available for purchase at the Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market. (Robert Short/CBC)

Drisdelle said the program is currently recruiting youth from grades 7 to 12. New participants don't require prior experience with beekeeping.

"They can still be scared of bees, we'll work with that. But they just need to have a keen interest in the environment, leadership and entrepreneurship," she said.

Applications are available through the group's website.

With files from Information Morning

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