West Virginia is facing a problem with coal mines shutting down. This is causing mass unemployment. So, the unemployed coal miners along with low-salary residents are being helped by a non-profit. Their method – employing the coal miners in West Virginia for culturing bees and distributing the honey. This method of extra income proves economically beneficial.
This apiculture location is an old gymnasium, which was the home base of a summer camp. Presently, the classrooms have been converted into labs with wooden boxes stacked along the walls. They have been newly painted blue.
The former playground of children is now the workplace of unemployed and low-salary West Virginians. They are learning about the new trade: beekeeping. In order to add on to the income, the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective (ABC)wants people to go for apiculture.
Beekeeping might be an odd job choice for the unemployed coal miners. But the large scale loss of jobs has led a large chunk of the population into a financial crisis.
According to research done by West Virginia University, a 27% decrease in employment occurred in the coal industry. Pennsylvania, Wyoming, and Kentucky have to counter the employment dents left by the industry.
The ABC works across 17 regions in the southern part of West Virginia. It is an extension of Appalachian Headwaters. It provides opportunities for economic development throughout the region. This is done by offering classes – Beekeeping 101.
Interested people can do a Beekeeping 101, a 5-week course which teaches them the essentials of bee culture, biology, and the remedies to common bee problems. After the completion of the course, these people can join the collective as partners. It offers the coal miners of West Virginia equipment, training, mentorship, and bees at a low price or for free.
The start-up cost became a problem for many, one of them being Jason Young of West Oak. He realized that his hobby of beekeeping could develop into a profitable business. But he was obstructed by financial problems.
He later learned about the ABC. Along with his daughter, he got admitted to the course. He acquired 12 hives at a low price and started the White Oak Bee Co. His first harvest produced ample honey to sustain his household and to make Honey-roasted coffee, the signature item of his company. This season, he possesses 14 hives and hopes for a larger profit to reinvest in his business.
Till now, ABC has coached 35 beekeepers successfully and has plans to coach more. In 2018, for one pound of honey, the market value was $7.33. Since one hive can generate about 20-100 pounds per year, each year the owner of a single hive can earn $700.
Entomologist Parry Kietzman said that beekeeping not only improves the financial conditions of the coal miners of West Virginia but also helps in pollinating a variety of flowers. This helps in increasing biodiversity. And it also makes people environmentally conscious.
Beekeeping has become a dream job as well as financially rejuvenating one for the coal miners of West Virginia.