BEEA Honey with a Heart lost both of their hives last winter due to weather, which stopped them from collecting and selling honey while they were expanding into three more communities in the summer.
“Really what that meant for us was that we took a hit financially,” said Kimberly Drisdelle, the facilitator for BEEA. The two hives that died were ones they were going to harvest during the expansion.
On Tuesday, BEEA learned they won $10,000 from the Aviva Community Fund. Drisdelle said they are now able to manage all five hives and expect a large harvest next year.
BEEA is a three-year-old youth-led enterprise from the not-for-profit Family SOS. Youth aged 12 to 17 feed and maintain beehives before collecting and selling honey at local events and markets. They have hives in Spryfield, Dartmouth North, Dartmouth East, Halifax North and East Preston.
Drisdelle said BEEA has been running on a deficit because they don’t have any honey to sell. She hopes the next harvest will change that. But, right now, they’re relying on the money won.
“This money has been incredible for us to continue running the program,” she said. With the two hives dying she hopes harvesting all five next summer will bring in a profit.
About 18.4 per cent of bee hives were lost in Nova Scotia last winter, according to the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists statement of colony losses for 2018.
Despite the financial setback, Drisdelle is using their loss as a teaching moment. She said the youth are able to experience failure and disappointment, which is part of being an entrepreneur.
BEEA also aims to build leadership and entrepreneurial skills, while also raising awareness about the importance of bees.
“We’ve seen (the youth) grow, not only in age, but also in terms of their confidence, their networking skills, their public speaking skills — just by offering these opportunities to them,” said Drisdelle.
The youth are given different roles so they can effectively manage the hives and market their product. The roles are BEEA Environmentalist, BEEA Entrepreneur and BEEA Leader.
Along with beekeeping, participants also attend sessions on business, entrepreneurship, pre-employment, leadership and environmental issues to help build skills that the youth might not otherwise learn.
BEEA hopes to be able to provide scholarships to program graduates in the future and expand into more at-risk communities in Nova Scotia.