Have you heard the buzz about an Educational Apiary in Central Oregon?

One small Crook County farm will be host to honey bee enthusiasts from the High Desert region this spring when it becomes the venue for a 3-season beekeeping education series presented by the Prineville Honey Bee Mentoring Partnership. A new year always means new projects on the farm, and SmudgieGoose Farm of O’Neil is no exception. 2015 marks an important milestone for this growing organic enterprise as it takes a big step toward achieving its goal of becoming an educational farm.

Owner Rob Dellenback and his partner purchased the farm in 2012 with a plan to develop a sustainable organic farm for the purpose of teaching others how to get back to the land. They planted 4.5 acres of open-pollinated, organic heirloom vegetable seeds in over 100 varieties for their first production season, offering fresh, local produce to the public at their on-farm Produce Stand and local farmer’s markets.

They started keeping bees with their first crop in 2013, after many months of research, and soon learned there was no end to learning about their busy new livestock.

Their second production season found them adding more bees as they expanded their produce selection to include over 160 varieties and began serving CSA Members, as well as marketing their abundance at local markets in Central Oregon.

As their interest in bees as a vital component of organic vegetable farming expanded beyond pollination and the sweet rewards of honey production, they wanted to learn what they could do to promote the role of these essential pollinators in a healthy, sustainable ecosystem.

They found a source for the answers they sought in Naomi Price and Richard Nichols of the Prineville Honey Bee Mentoring Partnership, with input from the Oregon State University Honey Bee Research Laboratory.

The farmers learned through the 2014 season that their new mentors shared their view of honey bees as a key element in the environment, as well as willing producers of honey, beeswax and other hive products. They also found that Price and Nichols supported their commitment to keeping things local.

After starting with “packaged bees” from California – and suffering a firstseason winter colony loss – Dellenback had acquired a feral hive from a nearby beekeeper, and noticed an immediate difference. The local “wild” bees were well adapted to the capricious seasonal weather of the high desert and resistant to most of the parasites that infest honey bee colonies. They produced exceptional queen bees for expanding the apiary, and remained strong against attack from other insects attempting to rob the hive.

Dellenback began to wonder why beekeepers in Central Oregon were not propagating new colonies from local stock with genetically local queens. Price and Nichols were already on the case, intent on organizing their local group to do just that; but they needed a place to conduct an education program to facilitate their ideas.

SmudgieGoose Farm enthusiastically accepted their invitation to become an educational apiary for the Mentoring Partnership, who are committed to raising only local bees. Dellenback and the mentors are very excited about the upcoming season of learning and cooperation.

SmudgieGoose Farm is located in O’Neil, Oregon. Rob Dellenback can be reached at smudgiegoosefarm@gmail.com or through his website at smudgiegoosefarm.com.

R. Dellenback
Oneil, OR