One of our cornerstones at Energy Sciences is Community. We strive to highlight local organizations that are actively promoting and creating sustainability solutions. We had the pleasure of speaking with Timothy Jackson, Co-Executive Director of Detroit Hives, who had a lot to teach us about how bees are helping to improve Detroit and the planet.
ES: What is Detroit Hives, and what sparked the idea for the organization?
DH: We are a 501c3 non-profit organization that works to improve underserved areas in the Detroit area. At the heart of our mission, we transform vacant lots into sustainable urban bee farms and natural habitats for pollinators. We currently have 23 locations in Detroit and Southeast Michigan.
Our core mission was to respond to major issues in the community about vacant lots and the impact on health overall. Due to the current quality and accessibility to daily items that contribute to overall good physical and mental health, we have made it our mission to clean up and transform lots for community use by utilizing the versatility and health benefits of raw honey that bees make. We create a social and environmental impact with the 80-100 pounds of honey produced within the lots per year. A surplus of honey allows us to partner with local businesses to support sustainability, local restaurants, and breweries to support local food initiatives.
ES: Which was the first lot you converted first in the Detroit area?
DH: Our first lot is on the corner of East Warren and McClellan. The lot was vacant for over ten years before we transformed it into a community space for both people and pollinators in 2017.
ES: What does the management of the farms and lots look like, and what are the sustainability measures involved?
DH: For one, the great thing about the vacant lots is that they haven’t been sprayed with chemicals. We keep it natural with the native wildflowers and allow greenery such as clover and tall grass to grow freely. Another one of our primary sustainability measures is the use of rainwater stations. We have worked with fire stations to optimally utilize the natural water source of rain for both bees and plants.
ES: For those who may not know, why are bees so important for the environment?
DH: Whenever we introduce a honeybee hive, we keep in mind that they have a six-mile flight radius and pollinate within it. Anything from a garden box to farms nearby benefits from these bees. In this sense, we can support local food initiatives through our organization. Additionally, we create food security for native bees, who don’t travel as far as honeybees. They depend on the local food source and shelter as their flight radius is less than half a mile.
ES: Why is raw honey so special?
DH: Honey is so much more than a substitute for sweeteners. Raw honey has significant medicinal benefits. It’s packed with important nutrients for your body and possesses antifungal and antibacterial properties.
ES: What has been your biggest lesson with this project?
DH: We believe a healthy future for bees is a healthy future for humanity. Our environment reflects our humanity. We are regularly exposed to climate inequity and injustice, lack of jobs, poor mental health care, poor quality foods, and overall lack of accessibility. If we can improve the environment by creating access to quality food and a clean community, we will have a healthy future. We have witnessed the small yet crucial ways our transformed spaces improve states of being.
ES: Tell us a bit about your collaboration with other organizations.
DH: We primarily focus on education and calls to action within the community. We partner with universities, local schools, and community organizations. Wayne State, Michigan State University, Ford Resource Engagement Center, and Mumford High School, to name a few.
ES: What are some community accomplishments that bring you pride?
DH: Native bees are in jeopardy of going extinct due to chemicals causing habitat loss, and we are so proud of our efforts to make Detroit a bee city. We have gained immense municipal support for the ethical treatment of Michigan’s 457 native bee species, working with public policy and Detroit City Council to pass this recognition. We also founded National Urban Beekeeping Day, which happens every year on July 19, so mark your calendars!
ES: Where can we find your products?
DH: You can always purchase from the Shop page on our website! You can also find them in the Detroit Shop in Detroit, Corktown in Detroit, Midtown Market on Wayne State Campus student center, the Metropolitan Museum in Detroit, and Roasted Plant Coffee in downtown Detroit.
ES: How can people best support your message?
DH: There are several ways that you can join the hive! We encourage everyone to spread the buzz – share the word about pollinators by passing along our content. We also always need volunteers! Sign up on our website to help with site cleanup, beekeeping space, and contributing your expertise – we don’t turn away any contribution or experience. We also sincerely appreciate individual or corporate donations, in-kind donations, equipment, skills, or resources. Most importantly, we always look for real estate for our next project. If you or anyone you know have an abandoned home or property they no longer need, we would gladly speak with you to help expand the mission.
If there is an organization that you are excited to support and would like us to highlight, contat us about them!