Honey Bees on the Farm: Connecting Women Beekeepers and Women Farmers for Environmental and Economic Benefit

Final report for LNC17-396

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2017: $200,000.00
Projected End Date: 09/29/2021
Grant Recipient: Center for Rural Affairs
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
Project Coordinator:
Sandra Renner
Center for Rural Affairs
Co-Coordinators:
Wyatt Fraas
Center for Rural Affairs
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Project Information

Summary:

In Nebraska, the small-scale beekeeping and diversified/specialty crop farming industries are growing. Many beekeepers lack land for hives, limiting business potential and environmental benefit. Many diversified and specialty crop farmers would benefit from honey bee pollination and pollinator-friendly conservation practices. With continued high bee colony and habitat loss, there is a critical opportunity to support the pollinators we rely on while promoting business sustainability through the co-location, or stacking, of honeybees and diversified/specialty crop farms. The project addresses women in agriculture, an underserved audience with strong conservation values.

The goal of this project, “Honey Bees on the Farm: Connecting Women Beekeepers and Women Farmers for Environmental and Economic Benefit,” is to increase profitability and environmental sustainability of women beekeepers and women farmers through collaborative approaches while supporting hive health. We will:

  • provide training to women beekeepers and women farmers regarding pollination, related conservation, and stacking farm/apiary enterprises, addressing bee-wise farm practices and farm-wise beekeeping practices, using a proven learning circle format;
  • facilitate stacked farm/apiary enterprises for shared economic and environmental benefit;
  • evaluate changes in crop/honey production and hive health due to co-location, with data used in training;
  • study behavior changes (process by which training/support lead to adoptions of bee-wise management practices and stacked enterprises) to document effectiveness and support future outreach and training efforts
  • share project progress and results widely.

The project will improve the ability of women farmers and beekeepers to support honey bees and other pollinators on the farm. It will develop connections between women beekeepers and women farmers, enhance their production, and help them collaborate for shared success. Both farmers and beekeepers will gain opportunities to maximize land use and reduce costs by stacking enterprises. Our data collection will quantify benefits of stacked enterprises while documenting the effectiveness of this project’s approach in changing behaviors; this will provide research support to enable for widespread adoption by extension educators and others.

When farmers improve bee-wise farming practices and/or co-locate with beekeepers, farmers will obtain greater uniformity, size, color, and taste to specialty crops due to pollination services provided by the bees. By working alongside farmers, beekeepers will see improved colony health and greater honey production due to the abundance and diversity of forage provided by specialty crops. The project will also provide environmental benefits via improved conservation practices and honey bee/pollinator protection.

Project Objectives:

Learning:

  • Farmers/beekeepers understand pollination concepts, mutual benefits
  • Farmers/beekeepers learn best management practices for agricultural areas
  • Farmers learn pollinator-friendly conservation practices
  • Participants understand production/hive health impacts of project’s co-located bee/farm operations
  • Participant behavior change model researched/documented

Action:

  • Beekeepers/farmers stack/co-locate enterprises using best management practices
  • Farmers employ pollinator-friendly conservation
  • Beekeepers/farmers engage with agroecological functions, impacts via learning circles

System:

  • Farmer-beekeeper connection model developed, delivered, shared
  • Understanding of benefit increases, fear decreases regarding bees on farm
  • Improved management and conservation practices support healthier, more productive crops and bees
  • Behavior change research enables widespread replication
Introduction:

“Honey Bees on the Farm: Connecting Women Beekeepers and Women Farmers for Environmental and Economic Benefit” uses a learning circle model to train and connect women who are small-scale beekeepers and/or diversified farmers, addressing plant-pollinator interactions and farming/apiculture practices, network building, and business connections. By working together, small-scale beekeepers and small diversified farmers can improve their knowledge, production, and profitability while protecting environment and bee health; the project will assess these changes.

 

Cooperators

  • Doug Golick
  • Judy Wu-Smart

Research

Hypothesis:

Research Questions

  1. How does involvement in this program impact participants?
  2. Does involvement in this program lead to changes in bee colony health?
  3. Describe what is it like to be a woman beekeeper and/or farmer within this program?
Materials and methods:

2018:  We are using surveys and interviews to gather data on impact on participants and changes in their understanding on pollinator conservation. We are also interviewing landowners and beekeepers to see how the project learning circles and interactions within the program are affecting the success of their beekeeping operations and farm management. We are also conducting hive inspections with the beekeeper participants to determine how the program is affecting their beehive management. Data is recorded on a hive health spreadsheet and we recorded video of hive inspections for post-hoc video protocol analysis.

2019:  We used surveys, interviews, and recorded beekeeper video to gather data on impact on participants and changes in their understanding on pollinator conservation. We also interviewed landowners and beekeepers to see how the project learning circles and interactions within the program are affecting the success of their beekeeping operations and farm management. We also conducted hive inspections with the beekeeper participants to determine how the program is affecting their beehive management. Data was recorded on a hive health spreadsheet and recorded video of hive inspects for post-hoc video protocol analysis.

2020:  We delivered programming live before the pandemic and via Zoom to Nebraska women beekeepers. Data was collected from years 2018 and 2019 and interviews in Winter of 2020, which was analyzed using statistical and qualitative analysis software. Work was presented at one regional meeting and two national meetings. A Graduate Research Assistant’s work was compiled into a thesis and approved by her thesis committee.  22 beekeepers and 40 farmer-landowners participated in research in 2020.

2021: We completed the research analysis from data collected in the previous years of the project.

Research results and discussion:

2018:  We collected preliminary data this year to set the research protocol and refine questions. The first year of research is starting winter-spring 2019.

2019:  We collected data from 20 program participants, 96 non-program women beekeepers (control/comparative data), in-person pre- and post-program in person or phone interviews with 12 participants, 3 interviews with non-program participants. Over 3000 minutes of video data was also collected on beekeepers keeping hives. Over 150 hours were spent with program participant beekeepers and landowner in collecting data. Research (Preliminary Analysis) was presented at 2 National Meetings and 2 International Conferences in 2019.

Preliminary Data

For our participants, scores for pollinator knowledge (p = 0.127, n = 7) and honey bee management knowledge went up significantly for participants (p = 0.034, n =7); * significance at p .05. We also found a positive correlation between knowledge and mid-season hive health. Honey bee knowledge score mid-season hive health score per colony (Spearman’s Rho = 0.481, p = 0.007, n = 30). In looking at the data, nearly every aspect of confidence, knowledge about bee management, and general beekeeping knowledge has improved. We are working to run the final analysis of the project this year (2019).

2020: All participants in the program said that the program helped them in their beekeeping. Total beekeeping and self-efficacy in beekeeping score increased for program participants. 88% of participants reported that they kept better hive inspection schedules and records of hive management practices. 

From interviews, four themes emerged regarding how the Women in Beekeeping programs helped participants.

  • Learned more about inspections
  • Knowledge of the process and procedures of inspecting hives
  • New accessibility to beekeeping management knowledge
  • Engaging with other women beekeepers and landowners through the program

2021: analysis and summary of research data, discussed by Research Question:

RQ1: How did program Impact Participants?

  • Beekeepers who took part in the learning circles had higher levels of honey bee knowledge and self-efficacy after partaking in the program. Additionally, beekeepers performed better in terms of knowledge regarding general pollinator knowledge compared to a control group that did not take part in the program. Evidence gathered suggests increases in knowledge and self-efficacy may lead to improvements in beekeeping management. 
  • To compare the program participant answers prior to and after completing the program, a Signed Rank Test was used to examine the summed question scores for verbal persuasion, physiological state, and performance attainment. Program participant scores for self-efficacy in verbal persuasion increased significantly pre-survey to post-survey (z= -3.2301, p = 0.0313) and marginally increased for performance attainment (z= -3.0301, p = 0.0781). Physiological state was not significantly different prior to and after participation (z= -7, p= 0.3125). A Wilcoxon Rank Sum was used to compare the post-participation program participant scores to the non-program participants, and there was no significant difference (Verbal persuasion: z= 265, p= 0.336; Performance attainment; z= 226.5, p= 0.149; Physiological state; z= 306.5, p= 0.679). Verbal persuasion is the influence of positive feedback from peers or mentors, in WBK other beekeepers and program leaders/mentors, have on self-efficacy. The change in this score is consistent with feedback from participating beekeepers regarding the value of hive inspections from GRA Gross. Whom beekeepers also viewed as an expert and mentor.
  • We used interviews to examine domains of pollination process, insect conservation, and beekeeping management. Little change occurred in knowledge of pollination process and insect conservation as study participants had relatively high pre-program scores. However, in beekeeping management questions where participants were shown an aerial view of a section of land and then asked where best to place their apiaries, beekeepers showed an improvement in discussing the need to place their apiaries away from crops (where incidental pesticide exposure could be increased), near to available floral resources, next to the presence of a windbreak, and in proximity clean water sources. This indicates an improvement in knowledge regarding the most important landscape influences in hive health. Additionally, 92% of interviewed participants wanted to modify the land to include additional resources on the land (e.g. floral resources, trees, water) for their bees after their participation in the program. This request to modify the landscapes indicates participants’ improved recognition of needing to change and improve landscapes after their participation in WBK programming.
  • In terms of behaviors observed during monthly hive inspections, we saw a theme of participants’ improved inspection confidence through both the change in their language and the number/types of inspection activities engaged in. During Janet’s (alias) first two inspections, she said “I don’t know,” after many of the questions we asked her. However, we noticed her using less “I don’t know” statements during the mid-season inspection. During the last inspections she stopped saying “I don’t know” all together. Using less “unsure” statements is an indication that she has become more confident when discussing her beekeeping. Kristin had a similar experience, showing more confidence in her beekeeping decisions and asking fewer questions during later hive inspections. She also began taking notes during her second inspection to help her track her beekeeping management practices. She also altered how she took notes throughout the season. She started with written notes and ended the season by voice recording her notes on her phone as she found this the “richest” way to review her notes. Both Janet and Kristin also discussed their feelings of increased confidence during their interviews. Janet said, “It [the program] helped me recognize, it helped me a lot doing the inspections to recognize things I can look for and things that I didn't really think about.” Additionally, during her last inspection, Janet pointed out that now she can confidently identify eggs and larva within a colony. In Kristin’s pre-program interview, she discussed how she thinks of herself as an “incompetent beekeeper”. Post-program, she referred to herself as needing to be a more proactive beekeeper instead of an incompetent beekeeper. Another participant, Margaret did not show any changes in her inspection behaviors. However, she told us during her interview that, “If it were it not for this program and the Nebraska Beekeepers Association scholarship (which her daughter received), [she] would have not started keeping bees.” The support provided by the program was important for her in feeling comfortable enough to begin beekeeping.
  • While some of the changes in their inspection behaviors may be a result of becoming more comfortable with having someone observe them, part of these changes may be attributed to a change in self-efficacy. Fiona and Julia also showed changes in their inspecting behaviors, but these behaviors are more dramatic and noticeable than Janet and Kristin’s. Fiona did not inspect her hives until her last inspection. During the first inspection, when we asked her to inspect her hives while we observed, she declined. We inspected the hives for her during the first four inspections, but she conducted the final inspection while we observed. Julia also declined to inspect, letting her husband take charge of the inspections. She even stated at one point that she “just prefers to watch.” However, we noticed that Julia began helping more during inspections throughout the season, such as smoking the bees or putting the lid on the hive when needed. She was also able to spot the queen bee and drones in later inspections. At one point she even held a frame of bees at one point. Both Fiona’s and Julia’s change to active participants in hive inspections by the end of the program may indicate an increase in confidence working the bees.

 

RQ2: Does involvement in this program lead to changes in bee colony health?

  • A total of 157 hive inspections were conducted from March to October 2019, from nine program participants. Hives were scored using rubric tailored for hive health factors by month including brood pattern, colony population, pollen and nectar stores, caste diversity and refined to a 0.82 internal reliability score. A repeated measures ANOVA was used to compare scores from May to July. The scores from these months were used because there were hives score data from 7 of the 9 program participants. Homogeneity of variance assumptions were met, with the exception of scores from July. To account for this, hive scores from July were transformed using Log10. Overall, there was a marginal difference when examining the hive scores by month (Wilks’ lambda = 0.766, F(2, 18) = 2.747, p = 0.054, multivariate η2 = 0.234). To determine which months were significant, a t-test was used to compare May to June and May to July. Hive scores were not significantly different between May (M = 2.61) to June (M = 2.84) but significantly increased in score from May (M = 2.61) to July (M = 3.38, SD = 0.347, t = 2.537, p = 0.018) in the hives.
  • To further examine colony health, participants were to respond to questions before and after participation in the program: How do you tell if an area is good for bees; and can you list factors that impact bee health? The major theme within colony health was what is important to beekeepers during an inspection. Beekeepers focused on the need for water sources near their colonies, the need for windbreaks in their apiaries, the need for an easily accessible apiary, and the need for floral resources available for the bees. Additionally, factors that beekeepers think impact honey bees included Varroa mites, the application of sprays (pesticides, herbicides, fungicides) near their colonies, the local weather, and other pests/diseases. The overall factors and needs of colonies were similar between pre- and post-program participation interviews and between program participants and non-program participants. Another common theme was how management impacts colony health. Kristin, Fiona, Donna, and Eleanor (aliases) all discussed how management is a factor that impacts colony health. However, while there are common factors and needs that beekeepers list for colony health, some of the individual answers of the program participants did vary between their pre- and post-participation interviews. Fiona, Donna, Justine, and Rosemary gave different answers in their pre- and post-program interviews, but their answers were not necessarily better or worse in terms of beekeeping management between the interviews. Kristin, Julia, and Amelia’s answers improved from their pre-participation to post-participation interviews. For Julia, her beginning answer was that she did not know anything about factors that impact honey bees, but in her post-participation interview was able to list three factors. Kristin and Amelia both make slight changes in their wording, going from broadly saying that forage and food is important for honey bees, to the more specific: forage and floral resources need to be available throughout the season for honey bees. While this change in wording is small, it is an important distinction for beekeepers to make as it indicates that they care about the diversity of resources available to their honey bees, not just access to resources.
  • Mixed Methods Findings. The mixed methods question examined how the quantitative hive scores confirmed the participant’s views of colony health (qualitative strand). While the hive scores increased from May to July, we know that generally that this increase naturally occurs as hives grow stronger as the weather becomes warmer and more floral resources become available for honey bees. In terms of the qualitative strand, there were slight improvements in the program participant’s interview responses over time. These small changes converge to show that program participants improved marginally over time in terms of colony health, however some of these improvements may be a result of natural improvements in hive health over time.

RQ3. Engaging with other women beekeepers and landowners through the program.

For a majority of engagement with women questions, we used a semi-structured interviews. The responses for these questions were long and are included here in context as participants explain the sentiment of what aspects of programming is important to them as women.

  • A majority enjoyed being able to engage with the learning circle and beekeeping community. One participant said she started beekeeping because she felt she had the support of a community. More experienced (8+ years of beekeeping) beekeepers said that they enjoyed the program for providing a chance for beekeepers and landowners to talk and educate each other. “I just thought it was really interesting [to watch other women beekeepers] and I feel like part of the things that they're doing, I could definitely use.” 
  • Participants had a generally positive experience with the program. Every participant found the program beneficial, although their reasons why varied. The accessibility of the program’s content was largely praised by the participants. Many liked that some of the content was video recorded and put online for them to view. All mentioned that they liked being able to participate in video webinars so they did not have to worry about having to drive - some lived an hour or more away from Lincoln, Nebraska where most learning circles were held. Additionally, a subset of participants noted that they enjoyed being able to rewatch the learning circles at a later date, or that they could rewatch the learning circles so that they could better absorb the information.
  • Community was by far the most important resource for women beekeepers. Eight beekeepers discussed becoming involved with beekeeping due to the help and support of their community. For some it was knowing that their family was interested and involved: “I had a cousin in Canada that wanted to [beekeep], and my mom's always shown interest and I always thought it was kind of fascinating. And so I thought, well if he [cousin] can do it in Canada, I can do it here” (Janet); having the support of their family or friends, “And so after the losses in the first year, we thought we better take a class. And so I went to class with him [husband] and that's when I first started to get interested” (Eleanor); or having the support of the local beekeeping community, “knowing that we would have their support through the Nebraska Beekeepers Association made it less intimidating that we would have people coming alongside of us, walking with us, and showing us were we screwing up” (Margaret).    
  • While community was important to these beekeepers, being a part of a women-dominated community was not as important. However, every beekeeper reported that respect, communication, and the ability to learn from the community was important in their selection and commitment to a beekeeping community. Even though community was deemed important, three beekeepers, Kristin, Fiona, and Julia, were not involved in some form of beekeeping association. Every other beekeeper reported being involved with a local beekeeping association, some were even part of multiple local organizations, and every beekeeper mentioned consulting and relying on other beekeepers in their local communities for help and support. Seven beekeepers were still involved with beekeepers and mentors from prior beekeeping courses even though they were not actively partaking in a beekeeping course. Kristin and Georgia were the only two beekeepers to not mention taking a formal beekeeping course; Kristin specifically stated she has not taken a beekeeping course, and Georgia did not discuss taking a formal beekeeping course; therefore we assume she has not taken one. The three beekeepers who did care about gender ratio all had specific negative experiences they could recall. Janet noted issues with feeling disrespected when asking questions, Donna noted that she preferred consulting other women beekeepers who also face physical struggles lifting heavy hive boxes, and Amelia recalled multiple experiences of being ignored in favor of her husband by beekeepers. Again, most of these negative experiences stem from a lack of communication and acceptance from male beekeepers. Furthermore, most beekeepers did not care for social media communities, again due to a lack of knowledge sharing and respect within the pages. Some found that Facebook pages provided too much information to sift through. Others did not like the amount of bad or false information spread on the pages. Some reported having had negative experiences with other beekeepers being "mean" on FB. In our third follow-up interview, we asked beekeepers to list nouns with which they identify. All post interviewees identified with the noun “mother.” They all discussed that by being a mother they ‘plan for the future’, are attentive to their children, and use their intuition, which they also apply to their beekeeping. Janet summed it up as, “moms are kind of the keeper of the home, so to speak. So maybe its kind of, maybe it kind of relates to beekeeping in a way.” From this, there continues to be a theme of motherhood connecting to their beekeeping.
Research conclusions:

This section summarizes results from the research activities described above. A Graduate Research Assistant thesis includes detailed data and analysis: WOMEN IN BEEKEEPING: IMPACTS OF A BEEKEEPER EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM   https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/entomologydiss/67/ .

  • Beekeepers who took part in the learning circles had higher levels of honey bee knowledge and self-efficacy after partaking in the program. Additionally, beekeepers performed better in terms of knowledge regarding general pollinator knowledge compared to a control group that did not take part in the program. Evidence gathered suggests increases in knowledge and self-efficacy may lead to improvements in beekeeping management. 
  • Beekeepers showed an improvement in discussing the need to place their apiaries away from crops (where incidental pesticide exposure could be increased), near to available floral resources, next to the presence of a windbreak, and in proximity clean water sources. This indicates an improvement regarding knowledge of the most important landscape influences in hive health. Additionally, 92% of interviewed participants wanted to modify the land to include additional resources on the land (e.g. floral resources, trees, water) for their bees after their participation in the program.
  • Several beekeepers were initially reluctant or unknowledgeable beehive inspectors. Their change to active participants in hive inspections by the end of the program may indicate an increase in confidence working the bees.
  • Hive health in 2019 improved between May and July, which may be related to both natural improvement through the season and to increased beekeeper knowledge of important colony management factors.
  • A majority of participants enjoyed being able to engage with the learning circle and beekeeping community. One participant said she started beekeeping because she felt she had the support of a community. More experienced (8+ years of beekeeping) beekeepers said that they enjoyed the program for providing a chance for beekeepers and landowners to talk and educate each other.
  • "Community" was by far the most important resource for women beekeepers. Eight beekeepers discussed becoming involved with beekeeping due to the help and support of their community. Community definitions varied: for some it was knowing that their family was interested and involved; for others, having the support of their family or friends; or having the support of the local beekeeping community.
  • While community was important to these beekeepers, being a part of a women-dominated community was not as important. However, every beekeeper reported that respect, communication, and the ability to learn from the community was important in their selection and commitment to a beekeeping community. The three beekeepers who did care about gender ratio all had specific negative experiences they could recall, such as feeling disrespected when asking questions or of being ignored in favor of her husband by beekeepers. One noted that she preferred consulting other women beekeepers who also face physical struggles lifting heavy hive boxes. Most of these negative experiences stem from a lack of communication and acceptance from male beekeepers. Furthermore, most beekeepers did not care for social media communities, again due to a lack of knowledge sharing and respect within the pages.
  • The accessibility of the program’s content was largely praised by the participants. Many liked that some of the content was video recorded and put online for them to view. All mentioned that they liked being able to participate in video webinars so they did not have to worry about having to drive an hour or more to participate. Additionally, a subset of participants noted that they enjoyed being able to watch the learning circles at a later date, or that they could rewatch the learning circles so that they could better absorb the information.
Participation Summary
40 Farmers participating in research

Education

Educational approach:

We will use the proven “learning circle” peer learning approach to train participants. Learning circles are educational sessions for small groups of women (up to about 30 participants), led by a facilitator. In the learning circle, facilitated discussion enables women to learn collaboratively, and primarily from each other. Presentations from experts supplement internal knowledge where needed, and female experts are used wherever possible to maintain the women-only circle. In addition to providing knowledge, the learning circles develop a peer network that can help enable ongoing communication and support.

In this project, we will hold 4 learning circle sessions per year for women beekeepers and women farmers. Sessions will take place throughout eastern Nebraska. Participants will be encouraged to attend as many learning circle sessions as possible, which builds a community for peer learning and support, but they need not attend multiple times to participate.

Our learning circle sessions will be hosted at farms, beekeeping operations, or co-located operations, and will include demonstrations/tours. Training will address beekeeping basics, on-farm pollinator habitat, and collaborative farmer/beekeeper approaches in environmental context, and will provide the tools and skills for beekeepers and farmers to make personal and business connections. Sessions will also include sharing and discussion of the production data collected from bee-farm partnerships. Each session will focus on a specific topic, with participants interests and expertise shaping the discussion.

Though the learning circle methodology currently lacks research support showing how it elicits behavior change, it has been successfully demonstrated as an effective approach in training women farmers, including through SARE projects. Traditional farm agency outreach methods have been designed and delivered largely by men and to men, leaving women feeling overlooked, uninformed, and poorly prepared (Eells, 2013). In contrast, the learning circle technique specifically addresses the educational and support needs of women farmers and women beekeepers. Documentation by WFAN and CFRA has shown that women (a) prefer to learn about agricultural issues from other women, particularly their peers and female professionals, in an informal, peer-to-peer discussion format that fosters support and encouragement to ask basic questions and to try new approaches, and (b) want to see themselves and their values reflected in outreach materials, expressed in clear, non-technical language and featuring information about other women like themselves taking action on their operations. Women prefer to learn in a women-only environment, and find peer-to-peer meetings significantly more informative and motivating than traditional lecture-style meetings (Tannen, 1991; Cech, 2011). Based on the success of this model in working with farmers and agricultural landowners, we expect it to be successful with beekeepers as well. This project’s research component will also document a behavior change model and develop strong research-based support to enable replication by extension and other service providers.

In addition to the in-person learning circle meetings, we will connect participants to each other via video conference, private webinars, email, and phone for ongoing peer learning and communication.

Cech, Erin, et al. "Professional role confidence and gendered persistence in engineering." American Sociological Review 76.5 (2011): 641-666.

Eells, Jean Crim, "The Overlooked Landowner: A review of research on women farmland owners in the US." (2013). Women Food and Agriculture Network. Web. 19 Jan. 2016.

Tannen, Deborah. “You just don't understand: Women and men in conversation.” London: Virago, 1991.

 

Project Activities

Learning Circles
Technical Assistance
Workshops

Educational & Outreach Activities

85 Consultations
6 On-farm demonstrations
6 Online trainings
11 Published press articles, newsletters
4 Tours
13 Webinars / talks / presentations
14 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

293 Farmers
27 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

2018:  PIs Golick, Wu-Smart, and Graduate Research Assistant made presentations as a part of the programming for this project at the Nebraska State Fair; Grand Island Nebraska Central Community College Bee Pollinator Festival (200 in attendance); to 150 first graders at  Roper Elementary, Lincoln, NE; 150 Lincoln Girl Scouts on the topic of beekeeping; for 130 High School Junior and Seniors about Programming and Careers for students with a focus on beekeeping; and outreach on Women and Beekeeping to 200 children and adults. The Center for Rural Affairs published each event on Facebook and on the CFRA website (cfra.org).  Events published on Facebook reached 14,200 people with 293 responses.  Below is a link to a newsletter article that was published through the Center for Rural Affairs: https://www.cfra.org/news/181129/bee-connection-sticking-landowners-and-beekeepers-together .

 

2019:  PIs Golick, Wu-Smart, and GRA also presented as a part of the programming for this project at the Grand Island Nebraska Central Community College Pollinator Festival October 2019; June at the Nebraska Beekeepers Association (80 in attendance); research findings from the women beekeepers in the form of poster presentations at the International Bee Conference at Davis, California in July; and the Entomological Society of America’s Annual Meeting in St. Louis in November. Additionally, GRA Bridget Gross spent nearly 100 hours this year working individually with Women in Beekeeping participants.

 

CFRA submitted two press releases to various news outlets regarding this beekeeping programming.

 

2020:  On June 16, 2020, CFRA’s weekly “Rural Rapport” on Facebook Live featured Project Staff Erin Schoenberg discussing educational opportunities related to this project and other related work:  https://www.facebook.com/ruralaffairs/videos/706312163542831  CFRA sent out press releases for each event in its Women's Learning Circle series plus our supplemental opportunities (those press releases are included later in this report).  

 

CFRA promotion of educational events included:  Bumble Bee Atlas citizen science project; Great Plains Master Beekeeping group; the series of Women’s Learning Circles; Nebraska (and National) Pollinator Week; Nebraska Friends of Pollinators Facebook group; UNL Bee Lab; The Pollinators video documentary;, and more.  CFRA had recorded 898 total views of its promotional materials at the time of this report.  

 

UNL’s efforts on promotion and outreach included 2 workshops in which Women and Beekeeping program content was presented, including a workshop at the Nebraska Beekeeping Association meeting with 30 attendees. Additionally, one online webinar on the findings and implications of the work was made available to NBA members and other beekeepers among CFRA's contacts.  Two presentations at national meetings were given on the outcomes and implications of the work including American Beekeeping Conference in Schaumburg, IL (January 2020) and at the virtual Entomological Society of America Conference (November 2020).

Learning Outcomes

38 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
4 Agricultural service providers reported changes in knowledge, skills, and/or attitudes as a result of their participation
Key areas taught:
  • honey bee management
  • agriculture landscape management
  • agriculture landscape conservation
  • beehive health strategies
  • basic beekeeping practices
  • USDA farm programs awareness
  • Legal considerations and contracts for farmers and ranchers
  • Pollinator Diversity
  • Alternative Hive Locations
  • early blooming plants for pollinators
  • matching beekeepers and landowners - working together
  • utilizing peer-to-peer networks for sharing knowledge

Project Outcomes

19 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
Key practices changed:
  • Improved hive management

  • Contracts adopted for honey bee placement

  • conservation planning for pollinators

1 Grant received that built upon this project
2 New working collaborations
Success stories:

2018: One woman beekeeper who was successfully matched through the project is expanding.  She took advantage of a USDA FSA Microloan to expand her business.  As of this report she is planning on 3 or 4 locations in 2019.  

2019: One GRA was selected for and participated in Farmer to Farmer Dominican Republic, working with improved honey bee business record keeping with Dominican farmers and beekeepers.

100% of participants are displaying better beekeeping practices and behaviors (video observations).

120 hrs of individual observation and instruction has been conducted with women beekeepers as a result of this project

2020:  The project GRA was hired to an Extension position to assist women beekeepers directly as a result of her experiences with this project.

This Women and Beekeeping program was reported as useful. Every program participant found the program beneficial, although their reasons varied:

  1. One participant, a first-year beekeeper, stated, “Just knowing that somebody who knew what they were doing was coming out here and confirming that everything was fine.” Having the support of the research team and larger beekeeping community was important to her experience. 
  2. The systematics of inspecting is used to describe beekeepers who found that the program helped them to keep better documentation and scheduling or bee health management. One participant said. “I am more systematic I think in evaluating things in the hive...and I feel like we did a much more thorough investigation of them every month, you know, so that I knew what was, what was going on.” Other participant said, it helped her to create a regular schedule of when she wanted to inspect her hives. 
  3. All enjoyed being able to engage with the learning circle and beekeeping community. One beekeeper started beekeeping in 2019 because she felt she had the support of the beekeeping community and research team. Another, who had been beekeeping for 8 years, stated that she enjoyed the program for providing a chance for beekeepers and landowners to talk and educate each other. She stated, “I just thought it was really interesting [to watch other women beekeepers] and I feel like part of the things that they're doing, I could definitely use.”  
  4. As are result of the program, one woman beekeeper (hive owner) began handling the bees and the frames with bees on it while before she relied on her partner to do so.
Recommendations:

In Nebraska, half of our beekeepers attending educational programs identify as women (S. Brummel, personal communication, September 21, 2020). Since a beekeeper’s education is important for the survival and care of their hives (Findlay et al., 2015; Jacques et al., 2017), there is a need to better design beekeeper education programs to be more inclusive of women. While we did not find that gender segregated events were of high importance to our program participants, it may be important to other women. We recommend pre-surveys or focus groups including women beekeepers be conducted to tailor beekeeping programming. Some of the negative experiences mentioned by the participants included interactions with well-known leaders of the Nebraska beekeeping community. State and local beekeeping association members are often the ‘face’ of professional and informal beekeeping programs. A poor interaction with one of these members can leave a new beekeeper feeling like she has little support. In our program, Janet (alias) noted being looked down upon by a male leader in the beekeeping community because she did not keep standard Langstroth hives. She left this interaction feeling like she was incompetent and treated differently because she was a woman. Therefore, asking women participants what they need from the community -- mentors, education on keeping bees in different hive bodies, treatments, etc. --  and ensuring that the leaders of the beekeeping community are informed by the surveys to the concerns and needs of women beekeepers, is an important first step in improving the inclusivity of beekeeping education.

Beekeeping programs should also attend to fostering and building relationships within the beekeeping community. Participants in our study mentioned strengthening their relationships with others through beekeeping. These relationships likely flourish because the women work with people that they trust and with whom they have mutual respect. Trust is important in building relationships within public organizations (Cho & Park, 2011). In terms of agriculture, trust between educational institutions and agriculturists can be important in helping agriculturists adopt new practices, such as legitimizing sustainable farming practices for farmers (Carolan, 2005). Collaboration that is based on trust between multiple interest groups is also important in building good relationships (James, 2002). The beekeepers in this 142-person program built trusting, collaborative relationships around beekeeping with other members of their family and other participants. These relationships helped them remain interested in beekeeping and overcome hardships that they experienced. By building a trusting, collaborative relationship between all involved parties (beekeepers, extensionists, and researchers), educators can aid beekeepers in their future beekeeping endeavors. Future programs should capitalize on trust building techniques and approaches especially as it relates to gender specific interactions.

 

Carolan, M.S. (2006). Social change and the adoption and adaptation of knowledge claims: Whose truth do you trust in regard to sustainable agriculture? Agriculture and Human Values, 23, 325-339. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-006-9006-4.

Cho, Y.J., & Park, H. (2011). Exploring the relationships among trust, employee satisfaction, and organizational commitment. Public Management Review, 13(4), 551-573. https://doi.org/10.1080/14719037.2010.525033

Findlay, J.R., Eborn, B., & Jones, W. (2015). Effects of colony creation method and beekeeper education on honeybee (Apis mellifera) mortality. Journal of Extension, 53(1), 1RIB6.

James, S. (2002). Bridging the gap between private landowners and conservationists. Conservation Biology, 16(1), 269-271. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1523-1739.2002.01039.x.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.