Detroit, Michigan has had more than its fair share of ups and downs with housing shortages, unemployment, crime and urban decline seemed to be winning until recently, that is.
Timothy Paule and Nicole Lindsey took action to take back their neighborhood, with honeybee farms! They founded a non-profit organization in 2017 and called it Detroit Hives and through their foundation buy vacant properties and transform them into fully functioning honeybee farms.
Paule explained to Huffpost: “These properties are left abandoned and serve as a dumping ground in most cases. The area can be a breeding ground for environmental hazards, which creates a stigma around the city.”
The inspiration for the project came from, of all things, a cold Paule had and couldn’t get rid of. They went to a local market and was given advice to try the local honey for his cough because of its medicinal properties.
Once he started feeling better it got them thinking about how the urban blight contributed to the rise in allergies with ragweed overtaking abandoned areas which resulted in the birth of Detroit Hives, a solution for two problems at once, by producing local honey and eradicating urban blight, one property at a time.
Paule, a photographer and Lindsey employed at health care provider, Henry Ford OptimEyes, became certified beekeepers by taking two courses at Green Toe Gardens and Keep Growing Detroit respectively. The couple bought their first vacant land for $340 on Detroit’s East Side with the help of the Detroit Land Bank Authority.
“The land bank offers a community partnership program for nonprofits and faith-based organizations to purchase structures or vacant land from the land bank to put back to productive use,” Darnell Adams, director of inventory at the land bank, told HuffPost. “We encourage them to bring their visions and their proposals to the land bank so that we can give them access to land to implement them.”
In addition raising honeybees and producing honey for sale to the public and local vendors creating honey based products, Detroit Hives also educate and create awareness about the importance of bees by hosting public tours of the farm (by appointment) and travel to schools in the Detroit area to create interest in the process in young people.
“It was a little hard at first because most high-schoolers are afraid of bees or they really don’t care,” Paule said. “So I had to find a unique way to introduce bees to them. One thing they found intriguing is how each honeybee had a unique job.”
According to the couple, in spite of their initial concern that the community might have concerns about the bees, instead the opposite happened, the community love the bee farm!
“The neighbors love it. They say they wish we were there 10, 20 years ago,” Lindsey said. “That area has always been a place where people dump trash, so when we came there, we gave that area a sense of purpose. The neighbors keep an eye on the area to make sure that people aren’t dumping anymore.”
Of Detroit Hives’ tagline“Work Hard, Stay Bumble” Paule says, “We’re hustlers, innovators and thinkers. Bees work really hard, and they’re humble. In Detroit, you have to work hard and be humble. It’ll take you far.”
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