Youth Beekeeping - Entrepreneurship - Building a National Model

Project Overview

Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2014: $2,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Manager:
Jennica Skoug
Community GroundWorks

Annual Reports


  • Animals: bees


  • Animal Production: general animal production
  • Education and Training: youth education
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, marketing management, value added
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
  • Pest Management: integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Sustainable Communities: leadership development, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, urban agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

    ABSTRACT: Students at Community GroundWorks’ Goodman Youth Farm will become entrepreneurial beekeepers through hands-on experience with the farm’s two sustainably managed hives. A beekeeping intern will guide teams of middle and high school students through a nine-week beekeeping experience, from hive inspection to honey extraction. Young beekeepers will design and market bee products for sale at local outlets, and share their knowledge by presenting to three groups: visiting elementary school students, professional educators enrolled in a youth gardening course, and established local beekeepers. Community GroundWorks staff will use the program as a model to develop two youth beekeeping trainings for educators.  

    The Goodman Youth Farm facilitates hands-on organic farm experiences for over 1,000 youth annually.  Using our half-acre urban vegetable farm as an outdoor classroom, students are engaged in activities such as planting and harvesting produce, planning and preparing garden-based recipes, and packing and delivering fresh food to the local pantry.  The farm is also home to two active beehives.  Honeybees are an increasingly important, and increasingly threatened, component of a biodiverse farm environment, as well as a potentially profitable investment for farmers.  In 2012, SARE funded a Youth Beekeeping Pilot Program at the Youth Farm, where students began learning the craft of keeping bees with help from a local bee expert.  The pilot program was well regarded among both youth and staff.  Here, we request funding to expand the beekeeping program in depth - by including an entrepreneurial component – and in breadth – by using the program as a model to teach other educators how to begin youth beekeeping initiatives of their own.

    The beekeeping program will be organized into three educational levels.  Beginning beekeepers will be students making a one-time visit to the Youth Farm.  Intermediate beekeepers will be a team of self-elected middle school students participating in a nine-week summer program at the farm, while the advanced beekeepers will be self-elected high school students during the same time frame.  A beekeeping intern will design and carry out experience-based educational programming with each level of beekeepers, with support and training from the Youth Farm Manager throughout the season.  Bee team youth will not only gain hands-on experience and knowledge of beekeeping and its importance within the farm environment, but will also be an integral part of designing and carrying out an entrepreneurial endeavor with the honey and wax products from the beehives.  This small business venture will have two aims: to fund the program in future years and to make a positive impact on the surrounding community.  The Youth Farm Manager will maintain records of students’ experiences to help design an online video and an in-person course for educators interested in youth beekeeping.




    April 2014

    Youth Farm Manger hires and begins training beekeeping intern, including hive set-up and development of educational programming.  Programming will integrate beekeeping experience with appropriate educational topics, as outlined below.


    May 2014

    Beginning beekeeping programs commence.  Youth learn basic bee behavior and anatomy, roles and benefits of bees on biodiverse farms, the economic value of bees, and current threats to honey bee populations.


    June 2014

    Intermediate and Advanced "bee teams" begin.  Beekeeping intern trains teams in basic hive inspections. "Bee team'' students complete initial interview about their beekeeping experience.  Educational sessions revolve around bee biology and environmental impacts and concerns of beekeeping, including:


    • Intermediate - Environmental impacts of bees on the farm; how farms can support healthy bee populations.
    • Advanced - Colony collapse and other threats to bees; comparing environmental impacts of beekeeping on different scales.


    July 2014

    "Bee teams" continue hive inspections.  Intermediate team removes honey supers and leads other youth in honey extraction and beeswax product creation.  Advanced team focuses on swarm prevention, and leads other youth in bottling honey and designing labels.  "Bee teams" present to visiting groups of professional educators and elementary school students.  Presentations are recorded via video.

    Educational sessions revolve around the economic viability of small-scale bee product business endeavors, including: 


    • Intermediate - Create marketable products from beeswax.
    • Advanced – Devise pricing, marketing, and recordkeeping scheme for sale of honey and wax products; determine outlets for sales; design appropriate labels.


    August 2014

    "Bee teams" continue hive inspections.  Teams visit with local beekeepers to share about their project and learn about beekeeping methods on a variety of scales, including environmental impacts of different pest control methods. "Bee teams" use this information to determine best course of action for control of varroa mites. "Bee team" students complete final interview about their beekeeping experience. Educational sessions revolve around the social impacts of local beekeeping, including:


    • Intermediate – Arrange donation of 5% of bee products to local community center; discuss community health benefits of local bee products.
    • Advanced – Discuss impacts of local vs. industrial beekeeping on their families and communities.


    September-November 2014

    Beginning beekeeping sessions continue.  Visiting students also participate in fall honey extraction and bottling.  Advanced bee team continues to keep records of bee product sales. Youth Farm Manager and Education Director devise two nationally available trainings for educators: a free online video outlining the program, and a fee-for service course focused on youth beekeeping.


    The Goodman Youth Farm is located in an area with a very active population of beekeepers.  The Dane County Beekeepers Association connects bee enthusiasts that use a variety of methods and scales, and is an excellent source of support for new beekeepers.  Interested DCBA members will be invited to meet with young beekeepers at their respective sites. 

    Youth Farm Manager Jennica Skoug has five months of beekeeping experience with the farm’s two hives, under tutelage of an experienced beekeeper.  Skoug’s experience has been based on Marla Spivak’s beekeeping method, which emphasizes long-term survivorship of bees in diverse environments and utilizes alternatives to chemical treatments whenever possible. 

    Spivak’s “Beekeeping in Northern Climates” book and course and Ross Conrad’s “Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture” will be used as resources for bee biology, integrated pest management, and marketing of bee products. 

    Madison-based Capitol Bee Supply will be a source for honey-bottling materials, and Community GroundWorks’ partners in the surrounding community will serve as possible outlets for honey sales.  One of those partners, the Goodman Community Center, hosts the middle and high school programs from which "bee teams" will be composed, as well as the food pantry to which a portion of the products will be donated and a student-run café at which honey could be sold. 

    As a leader in urban agriculture, Community GroundWorks is well suited to host a national model for youth beekeeping.  Its “Growing Minds” class for educators interested in youth gardens will serve as an outlet for students to share their growing apiculture knowledge and as a way to assess areas of curiosity and knowledge gaps for interested educators.  Community GroundWorks’ website can easily host an online training video and help draw interested educators to Madison for a hands-on youth beekeeping course.


    The Youth Beekeeping Pilot Program grant proposal from 2012 states that its future goal is to “refine our program over the next several years and serve as a resource for others who would like to start youth beekeeping programs.”  This grant hopes to achieve and expand upon this goal by offering outreach in several areas: to younger students, to established beekeepers, to professional educators, and to the surrounding community.  The program will reach younger students through bee team presentations to one of several summer field trips designed for elementary students at the Youth Farm.  "Bee teams" will design and present one such educational session.  This outreach technique was successful during the Pilot program, and is an excellent way to help youth solidify what they have experienced and inspire younger students to learn more about bees.

    The program will reach established beekeepers through bee team visits to other apiaries in Dane County.  Here, an exchange will occur between the youth and older beekeepers: youth will learn about different apiculture methods, and established beekeepers will learn about the accomplishments of the younger beekeepers. Young beekeepers will reach out to professional educators through their presentation to Community GroundWorks’ “Growing Minds” class.  They will lead teachers on an apiary tour and present on beekeeping topics of their choice. 

    The program will reach additional educators through students’ quotes and interviews about their beekeeping experience, as disseminated by the Youth Farm Manager and Education Director in the free online training video and in-person course.

    Finally, the beekeeping program will reach the surrounding community via the sale of bee products.  Youth-designed labels will inform community members about the young beekeepers’ efforts, inspiring them to learn more about beekeeping and how young people are taking an active role in improving their environment and community through local food initiatives.


    The Goodman Youth Farm beekeeping program will reach approximately 1,000 students and their teachers annually.  Ten of these students – the "bee teams" – will receive recurring training in beekeeping and entrepreneurship, while other students will be exposed to the bees through the Beginning beekeeping program or the educational sessions presented by the "bee teams".  The beekeeping program has the potential to reach additional students through the training of educators who may start similar programs in other areas. 


    Students will positively impact their community through the sale of honey and other bee products.  Local, unprocessed honey has been shown to have positive effects on physical health.  Furthermore, involving youth in honey sales will help create the cross-generational connections needed for a strong, dynamic social community. 

    Money spent on Youth Farm honey will be re-invested directly in the local economy via the beekeeping program.  Giving youth the chance to be both producers and entrepreneurs will help them build vocational skills that will strengthen their contributions to their families and communities as they grow older.  

    The story of the bees’ impact at the farm will be recorded via student quotes and reactions to the bees.  In addition to these educator observations, Intermediate and Advanced students will complete two interview videos: one at the beginning of their beekeeping experience, and one at the end.  These interviews will ask students to reflect on their knowledge and feelings about beekeeping.  Similar question structures will be used for both interviews, so that student answers can be compared at the close of the nine-week period.  Finally, a bee-specific question will be added to the Youth Farm’s current evaluation form sent to all visiting teachers and program leaders.  Educator perspectives on the beekeeping program will provide valuable information about program impacts and suggestions for improvement.


    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.