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By Jaime Sansone, Buzzworthy Blogs

This past spring and summer I researched, observed, and recorded characteristics of native plant species and gardens. With the assistance of mentors, I learned how to design and maintain both a native home landscape and a separate vegetable garden. And I was inspired to start saving bees in my own way.

Time would quickly buzz by during the bright afternoons spent alone in the garden. My hands and knees were habitually in the humus-rich soil. These occasions alone with Mother Nature uncovered a secret of unknown intelligence, self-awareness, and inspiration. The garden was organic, wholesome, and flourishing with a variety of greens, root vegetables, berries, herbs, and more.

The long hours spent in the garden were mutually rewarding. Cultivating food for friends and myself ignited a new perspective on food culture. As a 21-year-old woman living far away from any family, self-reliance and empowerment arose intuitively. Commuting only by bike, I’d invite pals with vehicles to the garden to help transport crops. Together we’d harvest and distribute produce to others nearby.

One day in July, I listened carefully to a buzzing in my right ear; it was calling for attention, “Zzamie, Zzamie…”

That tiny message inspired me and lingered in my ear that evening while I cooked my fresh garden meal. After sundown, I explored the Internet for local professional beekeepers in Allendale, Michigan. I reconnected with Grand Valley University’s apiarian, Anne Fauvel.

Anne and I had met the previous winter when she presented a workshop at the now defunct package-free, eco-grocery store Tree Huggers in Grand Rapids, and before I knew it we were suited up with a smoker in hand, identifying larvae, busy worker bees, drones, and the queen bee herself.

My garden, your food, and many of nature’s creatures would not be possible without the tiny buzzing honeybee or Apis mellifera. For millions of years honeybees have helped us to successfully pollinate 80 percent of our food crops along with flowers and trees.

How does such a small insect endure to work infinitely to support her hive, the environment, animals, and human beings? How many humans end a workday feeling as if they’ve benefited the environment, the community, the job, or even themselves?

I consider the honeybee a role model for the human race. My goal was to start a student organization and build an apiary at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids that would encourage education and community involvement. The Aquinas Keeping Bees Club started in the fall of 2013. The club’s mission is to integrate awareness regarding the value and reliance upon honeybees.

This will include a field-based education opportunity for Aquinas and local communities. My compassion, dedication, and hard work have been contagious among club members. I’ve reached out to more than a dozen expert beekeepers for guidance and support. I’ve attended beekeeping workshops, researched, marketed, written blogs across the U.S., and I am now teaching myself how to apply for a grant, so we can acquire club equipment. My hope is that my contribution can help save bees.

I understand that those within a community have a powerful influence to create change. I appreciate the value of connecting and learning from a diverse swarm of cultural backgrounds. I believe it is most impactful to reach out and educate individuals and surrounding communities, including grade schools, local farmers, businesses, and eateries.

As an active community member and yoga teacher, my ultimate goal is to inspire optimistic change among all people and environments. These new insights relate to how one can understand, live, and validate sustainability. Sustainability must begin with a willingness to surrender to the ethics and values we possess. In exchange will come a greater common good that is worth more than just a position, power, or wealth.

Today, I’m known as the “yoga bee girl” on campus and in the community. This moniker has encouraged me to dive deeper into the honey and initiate my own research. This summer I will be undertaking a research project at Aquinas with one professor. We will explore the connections between beekeeping and sustainable business. I hope to present this research at conferences I have volunteered for in the past. Sometimes you just need to sit down and get your hands dirty to inspire others to live sustainably. I found my tools in the garden, and now I am learning how to use and share my wisdom with others.

Jamie Sansone is a Junior in the Undergraduate Sustainable Business Program at Aquinas College. Her passion for sustainable innovation and her problem solving skills have inspired her to start Keeping Bees club. She has also served as a co-student founder of the Aquinas College Zero Waste Initiative. This summer Jamie will be honing in on her research and field work, traveling to places such as Costa Rica, Illinois, and Michigan

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