Final Grant Report - USDA and the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets

We recently submitted a final report for a two-year grant from the USDA and the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets.  The first year helped us to pay some of the cost for our members to attend the Eastern Apicultural Society annual conference held in Burlington in August of 2012.  The second year enabled us to launch our Mobile Mentor program.  

Here's an excerpt of the report:

 


The grant proposed two specific and distinct actions:

 

1) Hosting the Eastern Apicultural Society (EAS) conference in 2012 which is five days of lectures and hands-on workshops. EAS is the largest beekeeping conference on the east coast and features national experts. The expertise of EAS far exceeds any that Vermont could ever offer on its own. A portion of the grant covered a portion of tuition costs for VBA members.

 

2) Implementing a “Mobile Mentor” Program that allowed VBA to provide to its members cost-sharing for the services of one of five expert Vermont Certified Beekeepers to visit their homes/beehives and teach them – hands-on – about what they are seeing: disease prevention and detection, good beekeeping practices and ensure that they have the knowledge and confidence to be successful at raising bees and producing honey.

 

 Project Approach

 

 Eastern Apicultural Society Conference 2012

 

 The Eastern Apicultural Society of North America, Inc. is an international nonprofit educational organization founded in 1955 for the promotion of bee culture, education of beekeepers, certification of Master Beekeepers and excellence in bee research. EAS is the largest noncommercial beekeeping organization in the United States and one of the largest in the world. The Eastern Apicultural Society held its annual conference on August 13 – 17, 2012 at the University of Vermont. Volunteers were led by Bill Mares, former President of the Vermont Beekeepers Association. The core group of 10-20 volunteers spent more than two years working with the EAS Executive Committee on hosting the conference. We are extremely proud of our success:

 

       Total individual attendance was over 750 – the largest number in decades, possibly ever

 

  •       Over 50 vendors brought their wares for purchase and discussion
  •       191 Vermont beekeepers attended the conference
  •       Over 70 Vermont beekeepers volunteered their time
  •       Over $10,000 was raised for bee research and education through live and silent auctions

 

 The conference was kicked off with a press release (attached) that went to over 150 media outlets. The conference generated a lot of media attention and some of those print pieces are also attached. During the week of the conference, Channel 3 WCAX had “bee week” with a daily segment on the conference, interviews with VBA members, etc. Some 20 hives were brought to the green near the Fleming Museum at UVM for demonstration during the conference. Over 60 speakers presented research, tools, education and trade discussions. A busy room provided space for beekeepers and vendors to discuss new products, answer questions and purchase new beekeeping equipment and art. Author Rowan Jacobsen provided a thought-provoking keynote speech on the terroir (sense of place) of honey. Guests were indulged in a barbecue at Shelburne Farms – indeed, each evening provided some post-conference bee gathering.

 

 Our first goal for this portion of the grant was to increase by at least 100 Vermont beekeepers the number of EAS attendees in 2012. We almost doubled that goal with 191 Vermont beekeepers attending.

 

 Our second goal for the project was to increase the knowledge of Vermont beekeepers in a measurable way. For the conference portion of this grant, we utilized a survey required of all who received grant funds. Our goal was that 95% or more beekeepers would indicate that their knowledge has increased as a result of the opportunities provided by both parts of this grant. Based on the survey results (attached), we found that 100% of those receiving reimbursement under the grant found that “ I gained valuable knowledge from the information offered at EAS2012”. As evident in the survey results, Vermont beekeepers found this conference to be tremendously valuable.   Surprisingly, only 63% of those receiving the money said that they “strongly agree” or “agree” that the grant funds influenced their decision to attend – a number that we believe speaks to both the esteem to which EAS is held and to the dearth of educational opportunities in Vermont: beekeepers are hungry for information and willing to take time off of work to learn about bees. Also noteworthy is that 98% strongly agreed or agreed that attending EAS was a good use of their time. The survey results quantitatively demonstrate an achievement of our goals.

 

VBA believes that a third, unanticipated benefit of the EAS Conference was the development of stronger relationships with beekeepers, researchers and vendors in other states. A conference like EAS2012 takes a tremendous amount of work and the mostly volunteer Executive Committee of EAS provided historical perspectives for the Vermont conference organizers. As a result of this conference, approximately 20 Vermonters attended the 2011 conference in Rhode Island to better prepare for our conference. We met nightly to debrief about what we saw and how Vermont might do it better. The results of this collaboration extend beyond hosting the conference: 11 VBA members traveled to EAS2013 in Pennsylvania and we are making travel plans for EAS2014 in Kentucky. These relationships are beneficial for so many reasons, not the least of which is the opportunity to further expand our own knowledge and share questions and solutions with other beekeepers. One of our former presidents, Mike Palmer, serves as the Vermont state board member for EAS and another former president, Bill Mares, co-chairs the EAS Education Committee.

 

Mobile Mentor Program 2013

 

While most new beekeepers can and do read a plethora of printed material prior to starting with bees, a perennial struggle is to understand what is happening in the actual beehive. Having a knowledgeable person to explain what the new beekeeper is seeing and to ask questions of provides infinitely more knowledge than even the best book on beekeeping.

 

The second component of this grant was our Mobile Mentor Program. This program trained five Vermont Certified Beekeepers (a certification program of VBA) who then visit the hives of new beekeepers to explain what they are seeing, answer their questions, explain how to avoid problems, and most importantly, describe how to improve their practices to ensure ongoing success. To set up the program, we solicited members who were interested in serving as Mobile Mentors. From these applicants, we selected five based on geographic distribution. Rutland, Addison, Chittenden, Franklin, and Windham counties were provided coverage based on the home location of the Mobile Mentor volunteers. Steve Parise, State Apiculturist, provided a full day of classroom and in-hive training for the Mobile Mentors to ensure that all had similar knowledge.   The names and contact information was then posted on our website and members directed inquiries to the Mobile Mentors to assist them.

 

Beekeepers/hive owners who utilized the service of these expert beekeepers were requested to make a donation to the Mobile Mentor of $25 to ensure an appropriate commitment from the hive owner. Our goal was to increase by 25 the number of (mostly new) beekeepers who have access to one of the five experts to assist in their own beehives during the summer beekeeping season of 2013. We provided training to the Mobile Mentors and asked that they visit a minimum of five hives each and to track the number of bee yards visited.

 

The success of this program is measured by surveying those who received in-hive visits from the Mobile Mentors. Surveys were mailed to the grant implementer and compiled – a summary of the results in attached. We expected that 95% or more beekeepers would indicate that their knowledge has increased as a result of the opportunities provided by this grant. Our survey results showed: 100% of beekeepers indicated their knowledge has increased as a result of the information provided by the Mobile Mentor.

 

GOALS AND OUTCOMES ACHIEVED

 

Goal Actual Goal Met?
Increase by   at least 50 Vermont   beekeepers at EAS in 2012 190 Vermont   beekeepers attended (750   total) Exceeded by   almost 400%
Increase by   25 the number of beekeepers   who have access to one of the five experts to   assist in their own   beehives Approximately   30 different apiaries; 80   hives; and 35 beekeepers Exceeded by   30%
Increase the   knowledge of Vermont   beekeepers in a measurable way. Success measured as 95%   or more   beekeepers indicating an increase in knowledge as a result of this     grant. EAS: 100% of   those receiving   reimbursement under the grant found that “ I gained valuable   knowledge   from the information offered at EAS2012”Mobile   Mentors: 100% strongly agreed,   “I have gained valuable information from the   visit from the Mobile   Mentor”. 100%   strongly agree or agree that “As a result of this visit,   I will be a better   beekeeper” EAS: exceeded by 5%Mobile   Mentors: exceeded by 5%