At the summer meeting of the Vermont Beekeepers Association (VBA) on August 12, 2023, Andrew Munkres, was recognized as the VBA’s Beekeeper of the Year. Few people have had the positive impact on apiculture in Vermont as Andrew Munkres. It’s important to note that the following is only a partial description of the extent of his workload and accomplishments.
For many years, Andrew has made great contributions to the Vermont Beekeepers Association, Vermont beekeepers, and the practice of apiculture in Vermont. It’s not exaggerating to state that his experience and knowledge of the practice and politics of apiculture is encyclopedic. This makes him an especially effective as an educational speaker and unquestionably credible in the broader political and state policy realm.
1. For many years, Andrew taught beekeeping classes at Green Mountain College.
2. He has been the guest educational speaker at literally dozens of places over the years. These include:
a. Local banks, senior centers, and similar organizations holding community talks.
b. Every organized beekeeping club in Vermont – often more than once.
c. Clubs outside VT such as the Capital Region Beekeepers (around Albany, NY) and the Southern Adirondack Beekeepers Association.
3. Andrew was instrumental in fashioning the state law that established two-mile radius buffers around commercial apiaries to reduce the likelihood of colony overcrowding and consequent exhausting of food resources leading to colony health issues.
4. He was part of the VBA team in 2019 that developed the wording in proposed legislation, H.205, that eventually led to Vermont getting its first full time State Apiculturist in more than 30 years.
5. He was part of the VBA team that helped update to the state statute in 2021 - Act 129 - that defined “local” and “raw” which included honey in those definitions for the first time.
6. He was also part of the VBA team dealing with Act 49 in 2021 that established the Agricultural Innovation Board looking at ways to reduce agricultural pesticide use (that affect our pollinators) and reduce waste streams from farms in VT.
7. Most recently Andrew has testified to the Vermont Agriculture Innovation Board in July 2022 and again in April 2023 on the impacts of neonics on honey bees (and other pollinators) and alternatives to those pesticides. This presentation was the most comprehensive, research based review of the of impacts of neonics on honey bees that has been given in Vermont.
8. He was a key member of the VBA working group that established the VBA’s first comprehensive training outline for new and prospective beekeepers on the VBA website.
9. He has personally conducted or co-presented more than a dozen recent online VBA workshops via Zoom and more are scheduled.
10. He was instrumental in supporting the creation of the Vermont Bee Lab at UVM and continues to support their research efforts in his apiaries.
11. Andrew has supported preparation of a Long-Range Plan to guide VBA’s initiatives in the past and coming years. This has moved the VBA into a position of both supporting beekeepers directly and serving as the primary advocate for apiculture interests in Vermont.
12. During his years in the VBA Board of Directors, Andrew has served the past three years as the VBA President and before that, three years as Vice President.
13. In his role as President, and in accordance with the priorities in the VBA Long Range Plan, he has helped the VBA establish strong working relationships with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets (VAAFM) staff. In 2022, the VBA was awarded a Federal Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) to develop a statewide honey promotion campaign and to improve compliance by retailers and beekeepers with Vermont honey labelling laws and regulations. This campaign will roll out soon with Andrew being the point of contact with the professional marketing company developing the program to be released this Fall through the 2023 holiday season. Although this is a federal grant, it is administered through VT AAFM which is where our good working relationships and professional communications have paid off for apiculture in Vermont. Andrew wrote and submitted the grant proposal. This required many sometimes-frustrating hours of his own volunteer time. That was the simple part. The Federal General Services Administration would not recognize the VBA as a viable entity even after proving evidence that the VBA has existed since 1886. The GSA would not assign Unique Entity Identifier to the VBA because it did not have a physical office location. Andrew spent countless frustrating hours and weeks providing supporting documentation to resolve the issue. If the issue was not resolved, the VBA could never obtain a federal grant. Finally, after involving our legislators in the process, his persistence paid off and this issue was resolved last Fall at the very last minute, so we were able to use the $80,000 grant that had been awarded. This was a herculean effort with far reaching future benefits for the VBA.
14. The first Federal SCBG is just the beginning. Andrew has also submitted another grant proposal to develop a Vermont honey certification program. This will be at least a two-step process that will involve the Vermont Bee Lab and the people at the VT AAFM with whom we’ve fostered good working relationships.
It is clear that Andrew has had a major positive influence on apiculture in Vermont over the course of many years to the benefit of all of in in the beekeeping world. It is also clear that his work will continue to have a positive impact in the years to come.