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Apprenticeship Trainee Project for Growing New Beekeepers in Louisiana – 2019 – 2022

Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) worked to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops through a program focused on specialty crop development of sustainable production practices in the area of beginning farmers. A growing interest in developing honey production and a need for additional beekeeping in the state is apparent. Experienced beekeepers are concerned over a decline in small beekeeping enterprises, the increasing age of Louisiana beekeepers, and a lack of awareness and knowledge of the industry.

LDAF led a pilot project to address some of these concerns by implementing the Apprenticeship Trainee Project for Growing New Beekeepers in Louisiana. This program focused on addressing the loss of small producer-operated beehives due to beekeeper aging and the need for a new generation of beekeepers to maintain the industry and benefit overall specialty crop production in Louisiana.

The project recruited and educated more than 150 young adults between the ages of 15-25 over a three-year period in the development of new colonies of bees. Individuals interested in learning and working through hands-on experience in what goes into starting a beekeeping enterprise and maintaining a successful hive participated in the program. The class was a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on instruction in an actual bee yard. The classroom instruction covered basic bee biology (life cycle of bees, anatomy, the behavior of social insects, etc.) and basic beekeeping skills (how to inspect your hive, proper use of a bee smoker, queen selection, hive splitting, etc.)

A demonstration working bee yard was also established by 26 trainees providing them the opportunity to reinforce the instructional knowledge gained in the classroom with actual day-to-day hands-on operation of establishing the working hives. The 26 apprenticeship trainees that completed this stage of the project gave presentations sharing their lessons learned and the knowledge gained to club members, other students, and/or invited individuals to share their knowledge gained, lessons learned, and instill interest in others to establish their own beehive operations to establish new small businesses adding to Louisiana’s economy or interest in establishing hobby operations, both of which would add to the sustainability of the industry and the pollinator population in Louisiana.

Please see some of the apprenticeship trainees’ presentations below.