Missouri has the first state chapter of Heroes to Hives, a program that supports veterans who want to learn beekeeping.
New sessions of the free program begin March 2021, says Karen Funkenbusch, state director of the Missouri AgrAbility Project, which provides education and assistance to farmers and ranchers with disabilities. Anyone who is interested can enroll on the Heroes to Hives website.
Army veteran Adam Ingrao, an agricultural entomologist at Michigan State University Extension, began Heroes to Hives in 2015 with his wife, Lacey. The program promotes the financial and personal wellness of veterans through training and community-building. More than 900 military veterans and their dependents have completed the program. They manage more than 4,000 beehives in the United States.
Beekeeper and MU Extension agronomist Travis Harper will teach the hands-on portion of the program. Harper and his wife, MU Extension horticulturist Joni Harper, have made numerous presentations on beekeeping, and Harper began the Missouri Master Pollinator Steward program with retired MU Extension horticulturist James Quinn.
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.”
Funkenbusch, who heads Missouri’s Beginning Farmers and Ranchers program, says Missouri is home to more than 440,000 veterans making the transition from military to civilian life. Their challenges include anxiety, depression, service-related health issues and disabilities, and 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.”
Heroes to Hives is open to all veterans and military dependents.
Enrollment for the 2021 program is open through Feb. 28, 2021. Online classes begin in late March and you can register here.