Today I was reminded that about a third of our diets can be attributed to honey bees. Sure, honey bees produce honey, but it’s easy to forget that they pollinate most of the plants that sustain our food system. What with concerns about honey bee colony collapse and Minneapolis allowing beekeeping in the city, there’s been quite a buzz about bees, and a local beekeeper in bee-striped socks wants to help you learn all about them.
Earlier this week, Minnesota honey producer The Beez Kneez announced that their Community Bees on Bikes classes were open for registration. The Beez Kneez is a local company offering local, raw honey delivered to homes and businesses via bicycle. And the gal powering the unmistakable honey delivery bike is Kristy Lynn Allen, who loves beekeeping, honey, bicycling, and sharing information about all things honey bee.
Allen graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Global Studies major. After she graduated, she helped her uncle and aunt at their Bar Bell Bee Ranch. After a brief stint farming in Ecuador, Allen returned to Minnesota, where she developed a unique method for marketing Bar Bell’s honey in Minneapolis. Using herself as a traveling advertisement, she decorated her bicycle with bee-like stripes, attached some antennae to her bicycling helmet, pulled on some bee-striped socks, and started pedaling around the city, making deliveries of honey via bicycle.
Her interest in honey bees grew, and in 2010, she founded her own Beez Kneez honey label. To-date, she’s delivered more than 2500 lbs. of Beez Kneez honey around the Twin Cities, sourcing honey from her uncle’s farm as well as hives she’s established in the Twin Cities and Rogers, Minn., and Osceloa, Wisc. Although Allen delivers a lot of honey on bike to customers in Minneapolis (many of whom she’s met through her bartending jobs at Barbette and Bryant-Lake Bowl), her honey also is available at the Kingfield and Fulton farmers’ markets. And while a lot of Beez Kneez honey is raised in rural environments, it’s the connection in the urban area that motivates Allen.
“I like the idea of bringing beekeeping into the city,” said Allen. “My favorite part about Beez Kneez is that I get to interact with the community and many of our customers, whether it’s at their homes or at a market.”
Right now, profits from Beez Kneez honey sales are being funneled to Community Bees on Bikes, the new, experiential education arm of Beez Kneez. Allen wants the Community Bees on Bikes program to provide hands-on, learning experiences in the city about beekeeping, bee biology, other pollinators, and their roles in our food system.
As a class attendee, prepare to be suited up in a beekeeper suit, and get close-up with a honeybee colony as you observe the bees and learn more about them. Erin Rupp joined Beez Kneez in 2011 as the director of development and education for Community Bees on Bikes. She’s a beekeeper and a K12 Life Science Educator at the Bell Museum of Natural History, and will be leading the Community Bees on Bikes program. Beez Kneez has partnered with several locations throughout Minneapolis to host hives for these Community Bees on Bikes educational opportunities. Class locations include schools, urban farms, and community gardens, such as Blake School in Lowry Hill, the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden at Theo Wirth Park, JD Rivers Children’s Garden at Theo Wirth Park, the McKinley Farm and CSA in North Minneapolis, Kuhl Beans Urban Farm in South Minneapolis, Sisters’ Camelot’s community garden plot in South Minneapolis, and Project Sweetie Pie. Six, one-hour classes with varying topics are being offered, and prices range from $30 to $60, depending on how many people you can get to sign up for a class with you. Once the hives start producing enough honey, community members associated with the programs will have the opportunity to purchase the honey at a discounted rate.
“As soon as you start beekeeping, you become very much aware of your environment, from the wildflowers around you to slight changes in the weather,” said Allen. “I love learning about bees, and I love watching other people learn about bees.”
I know, I know, it’s not exactly wine and roses, but a date to an urban farm to learn more about honey and bees could be pretty sweet, if you can pardon the pun.