“Bees Helping Boys”: Bayer Bee Care Community Leadership Award and Salem4youth

Monday, May 1, 2017
By: Steve McNair, Salem4youth, Director of Development, and 2013 Community Leadership Award Winner
Steve McNair

When I started the beekeeping program at Salem4youth in 2012, it was an older gentleman who had been keeping bees for years who took me under his wing and mentored me.  Salem4youth is a faith-based, residential ministry that works with young men, ages 12 – 17 years old, who are going through a “season of struggle” at home. They come and live on our campus for 9 to12 months as we work toward restoration and reconciliation.

Steve McNair, Director of Development, Salem4youth, and 2013 Community Leadership Award WinnerAs you could imagine, there is a lot of testosterone on our campus.  Our residential program includes a school, horses, a metal shop and wood shop and, in the past five years, an apiary. 

We started our apiary on a “shoestring.”  Initially, we were blessed with a gift from a friend of the ministry who had recently lost her husband.  Her husband was a lover of nature, and she wanted to help us get the program underway.  “He would have liked this,” she said.

Our students enjoy and are intrigued by working with the bees.  At first, many are skeptical, since they have had negative experiences with “bees.”  Anything that stings is a “bee,” especially those wasps that stung them when they hit their nest with a stick when they were younger.  There is much fear and trepidation when they first suit up and enter the bee yard, but soon that fear turns into wonder and they are hooked.

The slogan for our bee program is “Bees Helping Boys” and that is truly the case.  Not only do they learn a new and unique skillset, the local community and our donor base really love and appreciate the local raw honey our “gals” (the bees) produce.  This past year we harvested about 500 pounds of beautiful honey, and because folks understand what the Salem4youth program is all about, we were able to sell our honey for a premium price.  We generally keep between five to nine hives.

bee keepersWhen we were notified that our program had been chosen by Bayer to receive their first Bayer Bee Care Community Leadership Award, we were both excited and humbled that they thought our efforts were worth the recognition.  As our program has evolved, our local community has been interested in the apiary – but especially the honey. To receive the national recognition was an amazing blessing!

Last fall, we hosted a community “pollinator workshop” on our campus sponsored by Bayer’s Feed a Bee initiative. Our campus is located in a very rural area surrounded by row crops.  One of our challenges is to provide varied forage opportunities for our bees as well as other native pollinators. Bayer continues to bless our efforts through their Feed a Bee program by providing native wildflower seeds as we work to establish an even more “pollinator friendly” campus.

2017 Bayer Bee Care Community Leadership Award

These types of community-centric activations with an integrated focus on pollinator health are a perfect example of the type of impact Bayer hopes the Community Leadership Award and its winners will have within pollinator-attractive landscapes nationwide.

Community Leadership AwardThis year, the Community Leadership Award is continuing its partnership-focused structure and further expanding its reach to recognize collaboration among beekeepers and growers, researchers, golf course superintendents and/or other stakeholders whose partnerships protect pollinators and benefit their communities. The partners who enter are eligible for a $5,000 prize to continue their valuable collaborative work with bees in their community.

New in 2017, the Community Leadership Award will also recognize a young beekeeper under 18 years old with a $1,000 prize to support honey bee-focused initiatives in his or her school or community, such as researching ways to improve honey bee health, establishing an apiary on his or her school campus or amplifying existing beekeeping efforts. Any student under 18 who has approval from a legal guardian and sponsoring mentor, such as an apiarist, grower, community leader, teacher, school official, beekeeper, etc., may apply.  

Entrants must complete an entry form, two essay questions and provide contact details for a reference who is an apiarist, a grower, a community leader or a member of a relevant organization, such as a beekeeper, growing or gardening association. The award winners will be selected from a pool of applicants by a panel of judges.

To review application requirements and expectations of the award winners, enter online or download an entry form, as well as learn more about former award recipients, including Steve McNair, please visit https://beehealth.bayer.us/beekeepers/community-leadership-award. The deadline for submission is May 19, 2017.

To learn more about Salem4youth’s commitment to enriching the young men it serves, visit their website at salem4youth.com.


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