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Veterans to help protect pollinators

Free classes are available for veterans to increase the bee population across the state.

December 2, 2020

2 Min Read
A beekeeper wearing protective head mask and gloves while holding a bee hive and a brush
BUILD ESTEEM: University of Missouri Extension agronomist and longtime beekeeper Travis Harper will teach the hands-on portion of the Heroes to Hives program in Missouri. The program helps veterans learn about beekeeping. Tevin Uthlaut

Missouri has the first state chapter of Heroes to Hives, a program that supports veterans who want to learn about beekeeping.

Started by Army veteran Adam Ingrao, an agricultural entomologist at Michigan State University Extension, Heroes to Hives trained more than 900 military veterans to manage over 4,000 beehives in the U.S. The program, which began in 2015, promotes the financial and personal wellness of veterans through training and community-building. It is expanding its reach in Missouri.

Karen Funkenbusch, state director of the Missouri AgrAbility Project, says the state is home to more than 440,000 veterans making the transition from military to civilian life. The AgrAbility Project provides education and assistance to farmers and ranchers with disabilities. In her efforts, Funkenbusch finds veterans struggling with anxiety, depression, service-related health issues and disabilities. Adding to their stress is finding career opportunities that are personally rewarding.

“These challenges are exacerbated by the loss of the camaraderie and support inherent in military units,” Funkenbusch says. “Transitioning vets often feel a sense of isolation and loss. Heroes to Hives offers veterans a chance to reconnect with their brothers and sisters in arms with a common mission of protecting the most important managed pollinator on the planet.”

Education options

Beekeeper and University of Missouri Extension agronomist Travis Harper is heading up the state program, which will begin in March. He will teach the hands-on portion of the program. Harper and his wife, MU Extension horticulturist Joni Harper, offer numerous presentations on beekeeping. He also was instrumental in starting the Missouri Master Pollinator Steward program.

Harper says student veterans will gain beekeeping knowledge and learn the importance of pollinators in agriculture. They will learn to protect honeybees through small-scale, sustainable beekeeping operations.

Michigan State University Extension educators will teach the nine-month online program. The course includes self-paced sessions from March to November. After students complete the classroom portion, MU Extension educators give hands-on training at an established apiary at a University of Central Missouri research farm.

During monthly sessions, students will learn about hive handling and inspection, pest and disease management, and ergonomics, Harper says. “Veterans will leave the Heroes to Hives program with knowledge as well as personal and professional relationships that open up new opportunities,” he adds.

How to enroll

Heroes to Hives is open to all veterans and military dependents.

Enrollment for the 2021 program is open through Feb. 28. Online classes begin in late March. Apply at heroestohives.com.

Heroes to Hives Missouri receives support from MU Extension, USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Missouri AgrAbility, and the Missouri Beginning Farmers and Ranchers program. The Missouri State Beekeepers Association also supports the program.

Source: The University of Missouri Extension is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.



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