Jason Bey can remember the first time he harvested honey.
“I was really excited,” Bey said. “I didn’t know if I could just take my hand, scrape it and taste it, but I did, and it was honey.”
Bey was new to beekeeping and harvested 60 gallons of honey from the spring season.
By fall his bees produced about 80 gallons of honey for the year.
“I gave away more honey than I made in profit,” Bey said. “This year, I won’t make the same mistake. I didn’t realize how much honey I had.”
He is about two years into the beekeeping business. What started as a way to get him moving after struggling with an injury is now turning into a small business that Bey wants to develop on a commercial level eventually.
Bey is part of a growing number of urban beekeepers. People are making the best use of their outdoor spaces and putting empty city lots to use. He keeps his bees at his home on the north side of Flint, Mich., and has purchased a vacant lot to expand his bee farm.
“Being in the city, there are a lot of people afraid of bees,” Bey said as he talked about stereotypes he faced as a beekeeper, including beekeeping only being for white people or you have to live in rural spaces. “I’m trying to open up doors and knock down misconceptions. I get a lot of people that look at me crazy. I get a lot of white people who look at me like what is this Black man doing up in here and Black people who don’t even want to deal with me.”
How did he get here?
While working at a factory, Bey suffered an injury where he was left with nerve damage in his back.
“I wasn’t able to work anymore…Sometimes I can walk and move around. Sometimes I can’t,” Bey said. “ I had been sitting down for a couple of years. I was surfing YouTube and I stumbled across the beekeeping thing. I wondered can you do beekeeping in Michigan? I thought what others thought. You can only do it in the country.”
His questions were answered while visiting a local farmers’ market when he stumbled upon a honey vendor. You can bee farm in Michigan, and you do not have to live in the country.
In late 2020, he kicked off his business, My Bees Nest LLC, and started learning as much as possible.
“It happened just like that,” Bey said. “At the time, I didn’t have anybody, and I just jumped into it. I learned as I went along. The best teacher is experience.”
Since then, Bey has devoted himself to learning about various bee species, diseases, and predators. He also has to study plants and flowers for bee health and honey production.
“There’s a lot of responsibilities, and there’s a lot of time invested,” Bey said. “I‘m in the process of learning how to make salves and soaps, and people that need healthcare products, I will pass it along to them. I’m doing this for my community,”
Bey said he wants to expand his business and educate people in the inner city about bees and beekeeping through developing educational programs for the community.
“The end game, I really want to produce honey and educate people beekeeping is a such a dynamic thing. It’s therapeutic. It helps people out. It’s helped me. My end goal is to be the best beekeeper I can to support myself and my community.”
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