[Image: Green Brooklyn]
There's a movement happening in this city right now to develop a strong localized food system. Urban farms, community gardens, backyards, and rooftops are the sites for productive vegetable gardens, chicken coops, and even rabbit raising. People who care about food and where it comes from are going to great lengths to find space to grow. And some are even breaking the law to ensure greater success of these urban crops. They're illegally keeping bees.
A matter of sustainability
In places like Chicago, San Francisco, and Atlanta, beekeeping is considered part of the city's long-term sustainability plan. Bees are even kept in the White House garden. But in this city, according to sustainable food advocacy group Just Food,
The New York City Health Code under Section 161.01 prohibits the possession, keeping, harboring and selling of 'wild animals.' This ban's listing of 'all venomous insects' includes bees and in doing so outlaws beekeeping.
The perceived risk (allergies, swarming) by few is limiting opportunities for many.
Without bees, we'd all have less food. Einstein didn't say this, but it's still rings true to an extent,
If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.
In a post on The Daily Green (2007),
Of about 240,000 flowering plants in North America, three quarters require the pollination of a bee, bird, bat or other animal or insect in order to bear fruit. Since many of our food crops – with the exception of grains – are imports, the imported honey bee is key to our food supply. Beyond that, no other pollinator can be collected, moved and unleashed to pollinate fields of crops like commercial beekeepers can do with honey bee colonies.
So losing bees would have repercussions throughout the food supply chain.
Legalize the bees!
In February, Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) introduced legislation to lift the ban on beekeeping. And yesterday he spoke at a press conference in front of city hall backed by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer (not "Stinger" as he joked), Executive Director of Just Food Jackie Berger, other Just Food members, beekeepers, urban farmers, and concerned citizens (that would be me).
[David Yassky, Scott Stringer, Deborah Romano, and a swarm of press]
We were all there not just in support of lifting the ban on beekeeping, but to support Park Slope resident Deborah Romano who received a fine for beekeeping and was ordered to remove her hive. Talking about the complaint brought against her, Deborah told the AP yesterday,
"I don't know why (that neighbor) did it," she said at the rally. "But my guess is that it probably was a combination of ignorance and fear. They didn't understand how vital bees are to our very existence on the planet, and a more livable existence in NYC. They probably didn't realize that honeybees and other pollinating insects are more endangered than dangerous."
Bees work for me
As someone who uses honey on a daily basis, I'd prefer if the sweet nectar came from right here in Brooklyn than be shipped in from upstate or beyond. I also prefer beeswax candles to paraffin, a petroleum byproduct, or even soy, which is most likely a genetically modified crop.
If we could produce these items locally, it would boost our economy, improve the local food production system, provide the community with products to be proud of, and offer beekeepers the peace of mind that performing their craft brings.
NYC beekeeping in the news and blogosphere
- NYC beekeepers swarm City Hall to protest ban (Forbes via AP)
- Urban Beekeepers Keep Cities Abuzz with Pollinators (SciAm)
- Bill to legalize beekeeping would be a sweet deal for New York's honey-making crowd (Daily News)
- The First Annual Beekeepers Ball: A Buzzing Night in Support of New York Urban Beekeeping (Serious Eats)
- Bee Sweet (Brooklyn Based)
- New York City Beekeepers Association
- Gotham City Honey Co-op
- BQE Beekeeper
- NYC Beekeeping Meetup Group
- The Brooklyn Bee
It's Pollinator Week!
And there are still some fun events to partake in:
Hidden Hives Tour & Mead Tasting
@ Jimmy's No. 43
@ Union Square Greenmarket
@ The Unfancy Food Show
For more info visit: www.justfood.org/bees