The media has been recently buzzing with stories about the decline of our global bee populations. The news is worrisome, as bees play an indispensable role in our ecosystem and we need them to pollinate the food we eat. It’s important for us humans to keep bees healthy and buzzing and we need your help.
Farmacy is helping to save bees by donating $1 for every bottle of Honey Potion sold to City Growers. Based in New York City, this nonprofit engages city kids in active learning about where food comes from — including the importance of bees, pollination and the production of honey.
We recently spoke with Courtney Epton, Director of Education at City Growers, for an insightful Q&A about the organization, the importance of educating children about bees and what we can do to save bees. Check out the conversation below and join us in the battle to save bees!
Tell us about City Growers. How would you describe the organization?
City Growers is an educational non-profit organization, dedicated to providing hands-on experiences for kids, with the vision of developing a generation of youth cognizant of where their food comes from and why it matters. City Growers programming focuses on youth development and farm education for kids in pre-k through 12th grade from across New York City. We see the youth we work with as the leaders, innovators, and educators of the future and aim to provide as many student with as many real-world experiences as possible.
Why was the organization created?
When the first Brooklyn Grange Farm was completed in 2010, there was no formal plan for educational programming. The farmers were quickly inundated with requests from schools to come visit. At first, the farm staff was leading tours, and in doing so, realized the potential for something truly great. In 2011, City Growers was founded by 2 farm founders as a separate non-profit organization dedicated to teaching the next generation about urban agriculture. Now, in addition to the benefits of green roofs on cities, local food distribution and job and habitat growth, the Brooklyn Grange acts as a learning laboratory for over 20,000 young people, and counting.
Why is fostering farm education and advocacy within communities important?
We’ve had high school seniors from New York City pull their first carrot out of the ground during a City Growers workshop. This disconnect between where our food comes from and buying our food has enormous impacts on the health of our bodies and the health of our environment. When young people begin to think about the source of their sustenance, they are empowered to make informed choices. The trickle down effect builds local economies, improves soil health, and slows down global warming.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in educating communities about farming and food?
The biggest challenge is almost always the adults, who have already formed a belief system around what is clean, what is dirty, what is healthy and ultimately, what is important. When a teacher brings a class up to the farm, her attitude has an incredible influence over the experiences of her students. But thanks to the incredible space we are able to bring youth and adults alike to, often by the midpoint of a City Growers workshop, the ‘wow’ factor cannot be ignored, and we are all on the same page – asking questions, questions and more questions!
Some of your programs educate about bees and honey. Why do you believe people should be educated about it?
The health of honey bees, and all pollinators, are inextricably linked to the health of our environment. Honeybees pollinate 1/3 of the food that we eat and frankly, they are fascinating creatures! We believe people should be educated about honey bees because, without them, our food simply cannot grow. An amazing thing happens when folks begin asking questions about honey bees – their curiosity becomes unfettered. Educators report almost visually seeing synapses connecting; learning is palpable and action is just around the corner.
Why is it important to protect bees?
Honey bees are a vital part of the ecosystem. This means that without honey bees, not only will 1/3 of the foods we eat disappear from our diet, but so will the food sources of many animals, as will many species of wildlife. Diversity in our environment is declining rapidly and without the honey bee, we will see an even steeper decline. Implicit in the call to protect the honey bee is the call to maintain the balance in the delicate ecosystem maintaining life on Earth.
What are some things that individuals can do to help save bees?
Educate yourself and others! At City Growers, we love to see students inches away from a pollinating bee, watching closely, where mere minutes before the same students were shrieking in fear. Consider your food sources: there is growing evidence that pesticides are contributing heavily to the decline of the honey bee. Where does your food come from? What are your farmer’s growing methods? And the loveliest part of saving the honey bees: plant flowers! Everywhere and anywhere! Undo your lawn and create pollinator pathways!
What are future goals the organization has in terms of education and advocacy?
Over the past 5 years, City Growers has grown considerably, from 1 full time staff to 4, and we now employ 8 part time educators and run a robust internship program, all dedicated to our mission of teaching young people about where their food comes from, and why it matters. Our future goals consist of reaching more students, creating more long-term programs to develop leaders in the social justice movement. We aim to train more educators in experiential education practices, add to the number of bee hives we manage around the city, and forge more partnerships with socially minded organizations like Farmacy!
*Beesuit photo courtesy of Yoichi Nagano
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