Around the Island

Back to Your Roots: One packet of seeds

SARAH SHEPHERD PHOTO | Alex Tuchman and Gunther Hauk showing natural comb from a top bar hive.
SARAH SHEPHERD PHOTO | Alex Tuchman and Gunther Hauk showing natural comb from a top bar hive.

Who would have thought that seeds from a single packet would set the tone for the work I do in the community? That they would inspire me to study in the southern mountains of Virginia, or that their purpose is to serve as an ongoing food source and medicine for our pollinator friends?

By buying those seeds, a bee forage mix grown at a treasure of an educational center in Virginia, I not only supported the work being done there for the bees, but I picked up an element related to my heart — and I made a wish that I would one day visit this little jewel of a place that grew those seeds.

My “Call to Action” from island to mountains presented itself with the opportunity to immerse myself in a two-year Sustainable Biodynamic Beekeeper’s training at Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary in Floyd, Virginia. Founded in 2006, their mission is to promote sustainable and biodynamic beekeeping through education and research at their 25-acre honeybee sanctuary. The organization is nationally and internationally recognized for its unique and innovative approach towards saving the honeybee.

I was blessed to be a participant in their 2015/2016 Sustainable Biodynamic Beekeepers Training and was joined by other beekeepers from around the country and Canada to journey down through the Blue Ridge Mountains of southern Virginia to the sanctuary where we would study and learn from founders Gunther Hauk, his incredible wife Vivian Struve-Hauk, and program coordinator Alex Tuchman. I was on a journey with educators who had decades worth of knowledge and experience to discover a natural form of “bee-centered” learning, filled with hands-on work and artistic activities that allowed for a shared experience. This was what I was seeking. Filling the world with ideas that unite us, not divide us.

Allowing the bees to build their own comb instead using artificial foundations, the natural raising of queens, and the celebration of swarming to expand the hive naturally were all elements of the teachings and experience. We had a swarm during one of the sessions and it could not have been better choreographed — the blue skies filling with a cloud of 10,000 bees leaving a hive, the swarm landing on a young tree in the gardens where my seeds were grown. Alex and Gunther gently welcomed the swarm, shaking it off the branch into a handmade swarm catcher, and then into a hive box, allowing one of my brave classmates to take it with him on his drive back home to North Carolina. Magic!

What can you do to help support the honeybee? Well, not all of us are called to the mountains of Virginia, however, we can allow ourselves an opportunity for a path to discovery. Plants offer an invitation to this discovery. Our growing ability to love will open up the secrets of nature. By creating these ecosystems, from garden to garden, there is transformation for the relationship between the land, humans and the hives.

Supporting a habitat for a variety of species is important. When we seek to create a garden, echo the diversity of species you want to attract. When you plant for the butterflies you are supporting the bees.

Raise your awareness. Not only to the problems, but how to be a part of the solution. Raise the awareness for this bee-centered wisdom, which celebrates the impulses of the hive. Engage with other individuals and groups doing unique types of work. It is important for you to know that there are motivated people serving this way.

Find your packet of seeds. You never know where they might take you. True joy is being on this path of discovery and with purpose. Yes, one packet of seeds has opened my heart and deepened my sense of the environment and community, the hive, and how we are all connected.