Malcolm’s Journey with MESA’s Beekeeping Program

Malcolm (left) speaks with Shyaam Shabaka (right)

Highlighting Malcolm, an apprentice in the first cohort of MESA’s yearlong Beekeeping Apprenticeship Program. This apprenticeship is offered free of charge to community members in East Bay by EcoVillage Farm Learning Center under the umbrella of our Community Food Program USDA grant. At the EcoVillage farm in Richmond, CA, apprentices learn the fundamentals of managing a bee colony and using beekeeping equipment . Malcolm caught up with MESA staff to speak about his experience in the apprenticeship thus far.

Malcolm’s childhood began in Saint Croix, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands, an upbringing he credits with his connection to nature. The spark that got him interested in bees specifically was actually his family ties to gardening. After revamping his father’s garden, the family saw bees as a way to enhance the fruit trees on the site. “Initially that was that goal [to increase fruit yield]… but now I’ve gotten hooked. It’s become a hobby.”

Part of why he has become hooked is the structured hands-on learning aspect. “The class is great because you have a bunch of experts who know nothing about bees.” EcoVillage provides the resources, a smoker, suits, and a honey extractor, but the program would not be the same without the people. “In that process we are not only learning about bees but exchanging information.” “I can’t believe this is free!” Malcolm is a father with financial obligations, he may not have been able to participate in the apprenticeship if it were paid. The USDA funding that supports this free apprenticeship aims to establish programs that can operate long-term. Without prompting from MESA or EcoVillage, Malcolm has expressed interest in promoting this program to the Oakland inner-city youth, a population he has previously worked with in outdoor education.