Beeconomy: What Women and Bees Can Teach Us about Local Trade and the Global Market.
Due to be published in Fall 2011. University Press of KY.
Environmental Research Institute:
I joined the Environmental Research Institute in Jan. 2008. Building on the research I started as the 2007 NEH Chair of Appalachian Studies, I have engaged in an unique partnership with International Coal Group of Hazard, Eastern Kentucky University, and funding from the private sector. There are two goals of the first year: the first is to bring more creativity to mine reclamation by reforesting areas with bee-friendly trees; and the second is to encourage a beekeeping infrastructure among people in Hazard.
ICG has adopted new reforestation techniques developed by the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative (ARRI), a seven-state federal initiative that was started by UK's Forestry Dept. The goal of ARRI encourages coal companies to plant high-value forests in order to set up a timber industry.
The Environmental Research Institute at EKU builds on that foundation and adds to that conversation by suggesting that a more diverse forest can set up a beekeeping industry, which then can spin off other supplemental industries. We work with the Division of Natural Resources to ensure that everything we request meets ARRI initiatives and the coal company is in compliance with approved forestry methods.
In addition to honey production, we are interested in exploring the potential for value-added cottage industries such as candles, lotions, and soaps. Even if these are not full-scale cottage industries, the U.S. needs as much beeswax as possible. The U.S. does not produce as much beeswax as needed for our cosmetics industry. Another side industry is queen rearing, which requires more advanced beekeeping skills, and that is a long-term goal of this project. A third, less visible "product" is pollination, and as Kentucky moves toward a diversified agricultural landscape, pollination services will become more necessary.
In many ways, my current position brings back the important service that EKU used to provide this region until the 1970s. EKU was cited in many beekeeping journals as being very involved in extension and education work. The Special Collections at Crabbe Library has archives from some of the local beekeepers as early as the 1920s.
As agriculture in KY emphasized tobacco (which is not bee-dependent) and cattle, bees became rather marginalized. However, with the tobacco diversification programs, farmers are starting to become more creative with flower production, melons, orchards, etc. Many of these agricultural industries require pollination. I'm really excited to be involved with the paradigm shifts in KY agriculture. I don't feel like I am creating a legacy as much as I am extending one that has been forgotten.
Reclamation Honey Bee Project:
Resulting from the 2006-2007 NEH Chair of Appalachian Studies Fellowship, the Reclamation Honey Bee Project is a collaborative project in which bee hives are placed at Big Elk Mine and Robinson Forest. Participation with beekeepers who live on surface-mined land are also included. We are using bees to gauge new forestry reclamation practices and honey production potential. This project will be expanded in 2007-2008 to include reclamation sites owned by ICG.