This post is a follow-on to Ellie's Op-ed in the Crimson Catalyst: The importance of mentors: Pushing entrepreneurs past their comfort zones.
While I wrote this op-ed about how mentors have helped me with my business, I couldn’t help but think about how important mentorship is for beekeeping. I first experienced beekeeping when volunteering for Stratford Ecological Center in Ohio. The beekeeper, Dave Nobel, needed a helping hand, and I immediately fell in love with the craft. I spent the summer volunteering with him and learning how to keep bees.
When I returned to Bloomington in the Fall, I found a retired IU professor, George Hegeman, who keeps hives at Hilltop Garden and Nature Center. I asked him if he would mentor me to continue my experience from the summer, and we spent the last weeks of fall inspecting his hives to get them ready for winter. When I received a grant from the Hutton Honors College to start hives for campus, he helped me pick out equipment, taught me how to prep it, and helped install the bees.
He continued to mentor me the next few years through issues with the hives and would check in on our hives from time to time. Without these two beekeeping mentors, I wouldn’t have even tried the craft, much less grow it into a business.
Many experienced beekeepers will tell you how important it is to have a mentor when starting out. Because of how mentors have helped me grow my business, I also believe that beekeepers should continue to seek advice as they grow their operation. Here are a few ways to find beekeepers willing to help:
Beekeeping clubs & associations: There are several levels of beekeeping associations from national, regional, state to local associations. Beekeepers of all experience levels are usually involved in these groups, and often mentor new members. Some clubs, like the Bedford Beekeeping Association near our office, offer mentor programs. This is a great way to get connected to mentors, but often these clubs hold conferences and educational meetings to help members learn about different areas of the craft.
Reach out: Many associations list beekeepers on their website. Don’t be afraid to call them up. In our experience, beekeepers are generally friendly and enjoy chatting about what they love. If there is a beekeeper that inspires you—don’t be afraid to reach out.
Facebook: The most active social media app for beekeepers is Facebook. There are a lot of groups of beekeepers chatting about problems they are facing and discussing solutions. Here are a few that we enjoy following: Too Big to Quit Now - Sideliner Beekeepers, Commercial Pollinators and Honey producers, and California Central Valley Commercial & Sideliner Beekeepers.