Monday, October 13, 2014

Vancouver Food Bank Honey Bees

One of our girls enjoying a Kale flower
     Last year we began raising honey bees for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank at our community garden (Cottonwood).  Before I became a beekeeper I thought like most that honey was a sweet treat that Winnie the Pooh loved, but to my amazement I discovered that honey possesses incredible health benefits that have been used since pre-Ancient Egyptian times to treat a variety of ailments.

Winnie the Pooh 
     However, it is only recently that the antiseptic and antibacterial properties of honey have been fully understood.  Scientists have revealed that honey has powerful anti-bacterial properties that work on at least sixty species of bacteria, and unlike antibiotics, which are often useless against certain types of bacteria, honey is non-toxic. The composition of honey includes sugars such as glucose and fructose and also minerals such as niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.  Depending on the quality of the nectar and pollen, the vitamins contained in honey are B1, B2, C, B6, B5 and B3.  Honey is used topically to treat wounds (including tumours), allergies, as an antioxidant (contains flavonoids, antioxidants which help reduce the risk of some cancers and heart disease), works to reduce ulcers and other gastrointestinal disorders and reduces cough and throat irritation.  All great reasons to provide honey to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank (For the Love of Bees).

     Last year we received a grant from the Vancouver Foundation to purchase the hive and bees for the Food Bank hive.  We were blessed to be a recipient of a grant from the Vancouver Foundation again this year to purchase a second beehive.   The Vancouver Foundation provides funding for community projects that help build a healthy, sustainable sense of community that is sometimes lacking in large urban areas.

"With over 1,600 funds and assets totaling $930 million, Vancouver Foundation is Canada’s largest community foundation. Each year, Vancouver Foundation and its donors make more than 5,300 grants, totaling approximately $50 million to registered charities across Canada. Since it was founded in 1943, Vancouver Foundation, in partnership with its donors, has distributed more than $1 billion to thousands of community projects and programs. Grant recipients range from social services to medical research groups, to organizations devoted to arts and culture, the environment, education, children and families, disability supports for employment, youth issues and animal welfare. To find out more please explore our website or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter."

     We are constantly bombarded by world news, mostly negative, that neglects to remind us of all the wonderful, small community projects going on around us.  Many of these projects are made possible by the Vancouver Foundation and help to make this world a little better place to live in.  For us, the Strathcona Beekeepers it has helped us continue to provide free beekeeping lessons and guidance to the community; free native and honey bee demonstrations; maintain our community bee and plant resource website; share our honey extractor with over 20 community beekeepers annually purchased with funds from the Vancouver Foundation; provide a place in Strathcona (Cottonwood Garden) for community, cooperative beekeeping; increase neighbourhood pollination and food crop yield; financially support Cottonwood Community Garden through the sale of honey and provide honey to the Vancouver Food Bank.

We raised $400 selling honey for Cottonwood Garden this year
     This year we were able to provide the Food Bank with over 50 kgs of honey to be distributed mostly to the downtown eastside soup kitchens.  A big thanks to the Vancouver Foundation for helping us continue our work. They have helped us create a permanent, positive addition to the Strathcona community.  Please consider the Vancouver Foundation among those you support with your charitable donations (Donate to the Vancouver Foundation).  Every little bit helps and you may just find a honey bee or mason bee in your backyard brought to you by your own financial support to the Vancouver Foundation.

4 year old Jack giving a bee lecture at Cottonwood Community Garden Open House
     For those who don't know the Food Bank or "The Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society" {GVFBS} is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing food and related assistance to those in need. The GVFBS collects and distributes food to nearly 27‚000 people weekly through 15 food depots and over 100 community agencies located in Vancouver‚ Burnaby‚ New Westminster and the North Shore. The GVFBS does not receive any government funding and relies solely on the generosity of individuals and organizations willing to donate funds‚ food and time like us.

Our beehives have been superbly painted by amazingly, artistic community children's groups.
     Last year we also started a food growing program at our community garden for the Vancouver Food Bank. Under the supervision of farmer Linda we have been able to provide a wide variety of fresh, local, organic produce to the Vancouver Food Bank.  I would also like to thank all the other gardeners who have and continue to work so hard at making this a viable project and by doing so making a positive difference in our community. As someone who has worked in traditional, rural farming I have discovered that urban farming is a totally different skill.  The main challenge being the optimal usage of the limited space. Farming practices like growing vine crops vertically on mesh fences and planting in July for your second late summer crop of peas.  Maximum usage of limited space.  The greatest example of urban farming that I know of is the "Urban Homestead" in Pasadena where they harvest 3 tons of organic food annually from their 1/10 acre garden while incorporating many back-to-basics practices, solar energy and biodiesel in order to reduce their footprint on the earth’s resources.  A wonderful inspiration.

Amy from the Food Bank receiving some of our fresh, organic produce.
     The bees are settling in for a long winter.  We have left them lots of honey with the hope that some sunny, March day next spring they come out to enjoy the nectar from the fruit trees and to begin once again another bountiful year in the community of Strathcona (Vancouver).

"Place a beehive on my grave
And let the honey soak through.
When I'm dead and gone,
That's what I want from you.
The streets of heaven are gold and sunny,
But I'll stick with my plot and my pot of honey.
Place a beehive on my grave
And let the honey soak through."
-Sue Monk Kidd


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