I was recently interviewed by Joe Dudeck about my segue from the ad world to the ag world and beyond. You can read the whole thing here.
Joe: So then tell me about your segue into farming.
Kate: I applied for an apprenticeship with Growing Places Indy, who does an apprenticeship program every summer, and I felt, “What a great way to transition into something.” Because of Bee Public, I was already starting to create these relationships with urban farmers. We have, within the city, four or five different farms, and I wanted to put beehives on their farms. I didn’t have a yard or a balcony, and it made sense to me to put a beehive where your food is so they can help pollinate it. The connection’s clear.
Joe: Did the farmers get the connection?
Kate: Some did. A lot of farmers are way too busy to even think about that. Planting flowers is an easy way to attract pollinators that are already in the area. So that was how I approached it. “Let me manage the bees. It’s free for you. I really believe in providing this service for free to you. I don’t want to charge you to put a beehive here.”
And that was the first time I realized I’m a terrible business person.
Joe: Yeah, how do you make money off this?
Kate: There are other beekeepers, obviously, who make their living off of selling honey. I got into it and was like, “I don’t want to charge people to set up the beehive. I don’t want to harvest and sell honey. How am I going to maintain this project?” I had all kinds of people telling me, “You’re a dummy. You need to harvest and sell honey. How else are you going to maintain what you’re doing?” I just kept thinking, “No. It doesn’t feel right to me.”
Bees make honey for themselves. Not everybody knows that fact…that bees eat honey. They actually work themselves to death to make this honey for their hive, which is a super organism. Eighty-thousand bees in a hive are working to make honey to get through a winter that none of them have ever experienced because they live about 30 to 40 days. How would they know what’s coming? But they know.
And once you’re in it, it’s hard to be like, “Okay, now I’m going to really mess up your world here and take out some honey.” It just never felt right to me, so I made a decision not to do it.
Joe: And do you feel good about that decision?
Kate: I feel really good about it. I get asked once a week, “Where can I get your honey?” It’s a great conversation starter to just talk about the bigger issues: why bees are in trouble, why I decided not to harvest their honey, and what other things they provide to us. I tell people all the time, “I didn’t get into beekeeping because I love honey. I’m indifferent toward honey. I got into it because I love vegetables and fruits and all these other great things that bees provide to us.
So the way that I’ve been sustaining Bee Public is through grants, donations, and sponsorships and just trying to come up with creative ways. I approach it more like a nonprofit versus a product that I’m making a profit off of.
Actually, the product is me. I get paid to do speaking engagements. I’ve made some strategic partnerships with organizations like the IMA, the Patachou Foundation, and Public Greens. Martha Hoover has been very supportive of what I’m doing. She has bees at home, and I’ve got a beehive across from Public Greens at that farm site. I give talks there a lot. I’ve also done some things with the Children’s Museum.
Joe: And how would you say business is going?
Kate: I’m at this point now where I’m like, “Oh, shit. I have a thing here that I have to grow now and pay attention to.” I’m at that moment where I have to really make some big decisions. It’s becoming a business—or possibly a nonprofit in the future—and I have no idea what I’m doing. None. I’m trying to find mentors and people who can help me navigate that because I’m not business minded necessarily.