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.
- 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
- 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
- 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
“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.
How does involvement in this program impact participants?
Does involvement in this program lead to changes in bee colony health?
Describe what is it like to be a woman beekeeper and/or farmer within this program?
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 recording video of hive inspects for post-hoc video protocol analysis
We collected preliminary data this year to set the research protocol and refine questions. The first year of research is starting winter-spring 2019.
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.
Educational & Outreach Activities
PIs Golick, Wu-Smart, and graduate student also presented 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 our website. 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.
- 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
Improved hive management
Contracts adopted for honey bee placement
conservation planning for pollinators
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.