Millions of Americans remember Flint, Michigan, from the 2014 water crisis that found hundreds of thousands of residents poisoned by lead in their water system. However, in the years since the onset of the crisis, the city has been recovering and growing in many ways.
Two years into his beekeeping business, Flint-native Jason Bey has harvested 80 gallons of sticky sweet honey this year, and he is looking to continue to grow his business.
Bey told BlackLikeUs that he started beekeeping to get moving after an injury. “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.”
But, Bey learned that he could bee farm in Michigan and launched his business, My Bees Nest L.L.C. during the coronavirus pandemic in late 2020. He brought in nearly 60 gallons of honey in his first harvest, much of which he gave away.
This year, Bey is focused more on the business side and the future. He plans to open on a commercial level eventually.
“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.”
Bey is one of many African Americans who are entering the beekeeping industry.
BLACK ENTERPRISE previously reported on Summer and Kam Johnson, the founders behind Zach and Zoe Sweet Bee Farm, a collection of raw honey made on their land in New Jersey and named after their children. The parents started beekeeping for health purposes when their son, Zach, began struggling with asthma and seasonal allergies and used honey to help. “We would regularly find ourselves in the emergency room and were constantly giving him steroids and medicine to keep his asthma in check,” wrote the Johnsons in an interview with BLACK ENTERPRISE via email in 2020.
In Michigan, Bey said he also wants to help people. “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.”
“The end game,” Bey said. “I really want to produce honey and educate people. Beekeeping is 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.”