There’s a new company in Fort Wayne that has been creating quite a buzz among students, conservationists and honey lovers. Southwest Honey Company was launched this year to not only nurture bees and harvest natural honey, but also to educate the public about the importance of bees to our ecosystem. Beekeepers Megan Ryan, who also serves as director of special education at Bishop Luers High School, and Northeast ISBDC client Alex Cornwell, who also publishes The Waynedale News, launched Southwest Honey as an initiative to protect and conserve the local bee population while offering hands-on learning experiences to children, families and adults.
“We exist to promote true conservation, education of the outdoors and the restoration of wildlife,” according to the entrepreneurs. “From these hives we harvest local honey that is sold in support of our apiaries and mission to help the bee population,” which studies have shown is declining on a global level.
Ryan and Cornwell have partnered with the Southwest Conservation Club, located on Bluffton Road in Fort Wayne, to be the base of operations for their apiary and educational programs about bees. This summer, Southwest Honey initiated Pollinator Education Experiences, “Explore the Honey Bee,” for various age groups of children and teens. This program provides hands-on, adventure-based classes to teach the students all about honeybees. During this program, which started on May 30 and runs through July, students have been able to witness hive activity and experience local honey while learning how pollination impacts the food we eat.
For adults 21 and older, Southwest Honey offers Bees & Brew, which is described as a sort of “wine and canvas” event for nature and crafts aficionados. “Participants will be treated to a choice of honey wine or honey beer and a sampling of local honey-based hors d’oeuvres while they relax with an entertaining presentation all about honey bees and how they help us,” according to a news release about the event.
Attendees also enjoy raw honey, make beeswax candles to take home, and can take an optional personal tour of the apiary and active beehives. Upcoming Bees & Brew events are scheduled for August 19 and September 23, beginning at 7 p.m. Reservations are required and can be made through the firm’s website, www.southwesthoney.com. Future events being planned include a Bees & Tea event for seniors, off-site educational programs, and 2017 summer youth classes.
Southwest Honey’s educational programs were made possible by support from the Southwest Conservation Club, Betterbee and Wheeler’s Bees, along with the USDA’s North Central Region SARE program (Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education). Ryan and Cornwell received a grant from SARE to study the “symbiotic relationship between farmers, ranchers and honeybees through consumer education.” The study will evaluate, through participant surveys, how activity-based educational programs impact conservation activities in the community and at home.
Southwest Honey’s beekeeping practices are “bee-safe” and the apiaries are naturally maintained. The firm partners with the ACRES Land Trust along with the Conservation Club and local organic farms to place apiaries on preserved lands and other natural locations. The golden fruit of the beekeepers’ efforts is natural unpasteurized, raw honey, which they bottle directly from the hive and sell through their website. Natural honey is popular not only as a sweet and healthy treat, but also as a homeopathic treatment for various ailments.
Pre-orders for this year’s honey are being accepted through the firm’s website, www.southwesthoney.com.
For more information on the honey or future educational programs, visit the website, call 260-609-2897, or email southwesthoneyco.
Cornwell has worked with the Northeast ISBDC on strategies for his honey company as well as his newspaper publishing business.
To learn more about the NE-ISBDC, visit www.isbdc.org or call 260-481-0500.