Stephen Mease Photography
I was thinking about 2021 last Thursday morning during the drive to Champlain Valley Expo to work the final shifts of the Vermont Beekeeper’s Association (VBA) booth; then pack it up for another year. All week our booth sat across from one of the slickest of the 130 booths at the 2020 Vermont Farm Show – hyper branded from banners to business cards, it clearly benefited from an ad agency and big budget. Down the aisle the media booths, chock full of handouts, looked like they were a snap to pop up, take down and carry with their stretch fabric walls, table covers and banners.
Heck, I had helped design some of those other booths a half dozen years ago. As the car idled in Essex Junction Five Corners traffic, I wondered: VBA already had upgraded its logo, banner and business cards, maybe we should just keep going next year -- raise the professional look a few more notches. ‘Create an easy, lightweight, packable display, instead of the homespun look of calico tablecloth, bee lights and heavy, handcrafted, hexagonal hive.
Word traveled quickly among the volunteers who had spent more than 30 person-hours in that spot over the past four days. They were proud! They had talked to thousands of visitors about every big and little item in that booth. They employed colorful surprises that lured people over, props at their fingertips to illustrate their every point, and info. and gifts to send people on their way after a meaningful chat.
Volunteers explained the opaque honey jar contest and showed the winning recipes, pointed to posters, used the educational hive frames to discuss a bee’s life, handed out lists of Vermont beekeeping clubs and contacts of VBA members who sell northern nucleus colonies. Volunteers raffled off the new “2 Million Blossoms” quarterly magazine. www.2millionblossoms.com They chatted up the benefits of becoming a VBA member. They asked visitors questions and told their own beekeeping stories.
Calculated Hits of This Year’s VBA Booth
Waggle Works hand-made veil, Wildflower pattern, by Mandy Shaw of Portland, OR caused a buzz. ‘Mixin' it up for change -- to feature what young, hip, experienced beeks wear Cost: $125. $148 with shipping. www.waggleworkspdx.com/beekeeping-services Shaw is also Beekeeper Confidential podcaster, one of the fastest growing beekeeping podcasts. www.beekeeperconfidential.com
VBA Member Tone Cantrell (pronounced Tony), of Burlington, created the flight of fancy hexagonal hive from scratch one winter. (He says he gets bored easily.) It has an entrance, screen bottom board, and at his home is six boxes high. Visitors removed the lid to see the tiny frame and imagine a swarm taking up residence. It was a real conversation starter.
A number of people told me they were delighted to hear long-time member Hugh Gibson of Essex Junction speaking about beekeeping live, on the spot to fellow beekeeper and Vermont Edition host Jane Lindholm on Vermont Public Radio on Jan. 28. Minutes 33:28- 38:10 www.vpr.org/post/milk-hemp-hay-and-more-live-2020-vermont-farm-show#stream/0
Appreciation to American Bee Journal, Bee Culture, Betterbee, Dadant and Mann Lake Ltd. For free magazines and catalogs.
One thousand thanks to set up team: Marc Beaupre, Sarah Rath, Jack Rath and Steve Mease. And the extra efforts of the take-down team: Janet MacKenzie, Al MacKenzie and Rob Achilles. Big thanks to Fred Putnam, Jr. for making a full vehicle delivery from Brandon to Burlington. Kudos Darci Benoit for going above and beyond to cover for late arriving educational materials. Mary Stoddard and Bob Stoddard for locating lost posters. Greg Smela for last-minute delivery. Honey Contest judges Mike Palmer, Mike Willard and Paul Yanus with Jack Rath and the 29 contest entrants whose honey and cookery put on a sweet show.
All that said: this is the secret ingredient to a booth that wins Best in Show. It’s not the hand-outs. It’s the many hands. It’s welcoming faces, sincere listeners and the willing explanations of these beekeepers who spoke fluently about beekeeping. For hours! Special thanks to: Cheryl Achilles, Debra Barnhart, Marc Beaupre, Hugh Gibson, Judith Graves, Peter Hadeka, Russ Lavigne, Leanne Lessley, Al MacKenzie, Janet MacKenzie, Karen Minor and Susan Shepard!
(VBA thanks all who contributed generously to make our presence at the Vermont Farm Show a success - sponsors and volunteers.)