“You’re born, you crawl out of your shell, and you start your life.” Those are the words that begin the Fish & Crown Creative produced video that introduced us to Sweet Beez Inc. at the Fast Forward Film Festival earlier this year. As the video plays on, it becomes clear that through repetitious second person phrases and natural imagery of wildlife, the video is subtly shifting your point of view towards that of a bee—one of nature’s tiny, yet powerful creatures. Watch the video all the way through and you’ll learn about just how vital the honey bee population is to the environment.
The importance of bees is the reason why local organization Sweet Beez, Inc. is dedicated to both conservation and educating the local community and beyond. Through their efforts, they hope to foster a stronger honey bee population and increase pollination of local flora. We thought we’d catch up with one of Sweet Beez, Inc's founders, Bryan Babcock to learn more about their organization's exciting beekeeping cooperative in Guatemala, their dedication to Rochester city schools, as well as all things honey bees!
Bryan (far right in photograph) is a graduate from Eastern University where he obtained his Masters of Arts degree in Urban Studies with a concentration in Community Development. After beekeeping for close to 10 years it is clear he is passionate about community development and even more passionate about sharing his knowledge with the surrounding community. “As beekeepers in the city, we discovered that our personal observation hive was generating a lot of interest with neighborhood kids. We thought—what a great way to build relationships and education about the environment at the same time!” said Babcock.
Sweet Beez, Inc. has a very impressive mission dedicated to promoting education and conservation throughout the community. When we asked Bryan how he would describe Sweet Beez as an organization, a common theme emerged—an emphasis on community development. According to Babcock, Sweet Beez, Inc. could be described as a “community development center at its core,” and says, “We believe education and conservation are vital and both of these things do not exist outside the bounds of developing community.”
So you may be wondering how Sweet Beez, Inc. serves the larger community and more importantly, how is it vital to Rochester, NY? Well, Bryan has the answer! He says,“Sweet Beez is vital for the pollination of many important crops in Rochester's growing Urban farm/garden community. Not only do we provide pollination for many community gardens, but we also get folks involved in learning how to help keep the honeybee population thriving in the area while doing so. Keeping the flowers in the flower city!”
In serving the larger community, Sweet Beez, Inc. has forged several partnerships throughout Rochester, including a commitment to working with Rochester city school children. The Cobblestone School of Rochester has helped Sweet Beez, Inc. on numerous occasions, assisting with educational and artistic projects such as developing their very own public service announcements (PSA) that can be seen here. “ As residents with children in Rochester’s 19th Ward, we believe in the city and are excited to be a part of it! We feel our neighbor’s fate is tied and linked directly to our own and through relationship and solidarity we hope to build a better community and fix many perceptions that exist in and around the City School District,” said Babcock.
However, Sweet Beez, Inc.’s partnerships don’t end there. In fact, they’ve established an exciting beekeeping cooperative in El Sauce, Guatemala! According to Babcock, “Sweet Beez, Inc. now employs Jacinto, a Mayan man who has nearly 30 years of beekeeping experience.” Babcock explained that although Jacinto runs the cooperative in El Sauce, Guatemala, there are approximately 10 coffee farmer families that have now begun their own beekeeping practices. “We travel frequently to El Sauce and are very excited to be a part of such a wonderful project,” said Babcock.
As for how that partnership has affected the lives of the farmers in the El Sauce community? Bryan answered that for us too! He says, “The cooperative will be benefitting from increased coffee crop yields and the benefit of selling some of their honey (locally here in Rochester as well!). Sweet Beez is providing the funding to employ Jacinto as a teacher and mentor to the 10 families. This is a benefit to Jacinto and his family (who is part of the "Mam" Mayan people of Guatemala) as well as the coffee farmers. There is a great deal of excitement and energy in the village surrounding this new project!”
In the future, Babcock hopes to tie this initiative directly into Sweet Beez, Inc.’s community development efforts right here in the city of Rochester. “We have plans to bring along some of the teens that have been helping us with our efforts in the city on some of our trips to El Sauce,” said Babcock.
Aside from their outreach abroad, Sweet Beez, Inc. also provides opportunities for local beekeepers right here in Rochester, allowing their facilities to function as a resource for workshops as well as a refuge for those lacking the proper resources to extract honey. “Our extractor will accept 9 deep frames of honey or 18 medium/small frames at one time. It is a radial extractor that will extract both sides of the frame at the same time. It is also powered by bicycle—so get a workout while you smell that fresh, sweet, sticky goodness!” said Babcock. Cool, right?
After reading about all of the unique things that Sweet Beez, Inc. does, you may be wondering how YOU can get involved. Well, according to Babcock, Sweet Beez, Inc. is always seeking volunteers to help check up on their many hives throughout the community. For more details, visit their website! Don’t have time to volunteer, but are passionate about beekeeping? Babcock says you can still get involved by planting bee friendly flowers and to avoid removing dandelions or spraying harsh chemicals on your lawn.
Learn more about Sweet Beez, Inc. on Tuesday, August 11th at Honeybees + A Movie: A Sweet Fundraiser for Sweet Beez! Babcock says, “Attendees can look forward to having hands on beekeeping experience. They will be digging through our rooftop hives, identifying different types/ages of honeybees as well as well as trying some honey!” Immediately following the talk and demonstration, guests are also invited to stay for a screening of the Academy Award nominated documentary More Than Honey. Sounds pretty sweet, huh? Class begins at 6:30pm and will be held at the Sweet Beez location on the 4th floor of 936 Exchange Street in Rochester, NY. See you there!