Any aspect of farming you undertake always begins with some form of education. Often, it is through books or websites. Sometimes you have a mentor, family member or neighbor who are on hand to help out. I love having all of these in my pursuit of living a simple life on the farm. But one of the best ways to learn is through joining a group.
A couple of years ago, we started out beekeeping education by babysitting my sister-in-law’s bees while she had some work done at her house. We discovered that we loved having them and started reading and studying. About a year later, we put our first beehive in the back pasture. We purchased it through Johnny and Audi, and they kindly came to help us install the bees in our hives.
While installing them, Johnny showed me different aspects of the hive, gave me a brief lesson on what to look for, and general information. They also sat down to visit with us and gave us a few tips, pointers and even more information.
Since then, Johnny and Audi have become our beekeeping mentors. We still read, study and watch videos, and slowly but surely we are coming to understand more about bees. A few months ago, Audi called to let us know that they were putting together a new beekeeping group close to us. We immediately signed the roster for the Natchitoches Beekeepers Association and have been going to the meetings regularly.
The group ranges from ‘I don’t have bees but am interested and want them’, to ‘I have one hive and need to learn more’, all the way up to ‘I have had bees for 30 years or better, but also know the value of continuing education’. We learn a little more at each meeting, and after the first one, the Country Boy decided to get his own ‘bee bonnet’ (his euphemism for a bee veil) so he could ‘get in the sticky thick of things’.
Groups like this often offer talks and demonstrations from the experts. You get information on other conferences that are in your area. There is an opportunity to ask questions – but with beekeepers, be prepared to get as many answers as there are people. Still, you are able to have several opinions to draw from, which gives you at least enough information to get started. From there, you learn enough to find a way to do it that is more comfortable to you. Many times there are also demonstrations, DIY, and a library (or book and magazine suggestions). There is no end to the education you can get from joining a group.
Most times, it is very simple to join a group. Simply do a search on line or contact a local or state level entity that can lead you in the right direction. As for beekeeping, you can contact the Louisiana Beekeepers Association (or the one in your state). If it is for livestock, contact your local USDA. Crafts? Your local hobby shop may have that information for you.
Better yet, join a group and bring your kids. Our group is kid friendly. In fact, Elaine, a five-year-old, is not only a member of our group, but she is also an active beekeeper in her own right. She may not be able to do the heavy lifting, but she helps with almost every other aspect of working the hives. So please, don’t use the excuse that you ‘have kids and can’t do this’. Bring ‘em on!
No matter what you love to do, joining an organization that focuses on your passion is one of the best things to do. Not only do you get a better education, you also can become friends with folks who actually ‘speak your language’!
Want to read more on Beekeeping? Check out these great books!