Hayes Valley Farm Begins Beekeeping Classes One Year After the Insecticide

Categories: Urban Farming
Don Hankins
Haven't you always wanted to do this?
Last July, the volunteers at Hayes Valley Farm discovered that someone -- probably an irate neighbor -- had broken into the farm overnight and sprayed insecticide into three beehives on the site. A quarter of a million bees died, several thousand dollars' worth of honey was ruined, and the young urban farm suffered its biggest shock to date. When SFoodie spoke to beekeeper Karen Peteros the day after the discovery, she told us she wasn't sure she was going to install new colonies.

Less than a year later, though, Peteros hasn't just tripled the amount of hives on the farm -- she's about to start offering biweekly beekeeping classes.

Jonathan Kauffman
New hives at Hayes Valley Farm.
What happened? we asked Peteros, co-founder of local group SF Bee-Cause. "Since what we call the 'insecticide,'" Peteros said, "the leadership of the farm consulted with the neighborhood association and the city. There had been other security issues at the site, so they garnered community support to provide better security."

The new neighborhood watch, combined with the public outcry over the deaths, convinced Peteros to give the farm another chance. She installed the new hives several months ago, and has been working for the past few months to secure bee suits for beekeeping students.

Hayes Valley Farms' first beekeeping class will be held Saturday, June 18, and Peteros and SF Bee-Cause are planning to hold subsequent classes every other Saturday. "You can take hands-on beekeeping classes in San Francisco through the bee clubs, which hold them once or twice a year in the early spring," she says. "But there's no place you can go on an ongoing basis. So if you want to undertake beekeeping but are nervous about opening boxes filled with tens of thousands of stinging insects [she laughs], we'll have hive inspection classes every other week so you can follow the seasonal changes of the populations of the hive."

Each class will cost $20, and will require signing up a week in advance through the Hayes Valley Farm website; the class limit is six people. The first class hasn't yet appeared on the farm's site, but at the bottom of the home page, you can sign up to receive notices about events and volunteer opportunities related to beekeeping.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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