Our Story: Building The Global Colony
“When we looked down into that empty hive body, shared a long slow gaze, realizing we’d lost our first honey bee colony to Colony Collapse Disorder, in remote, rural North Carolina, my knees went suddenly weak. I sat down hard in the field grass and wept in disbelief. I thought it couldn’t happen way out there,” recalls Friends of Honeybees founder, N’ann Harp. “That had been our hope in 2004, anyway. Our fantasy, as it turned out.”
It can happen here. It is happening here.
“I was a budding beekeeper, an enthusiastic honey package designer and marketer during the mid-90’s after moving to Asheville, in the mountains of Western North Carolina from my Pentagon neighborhood outside of Washington, D.C. I’d left D.C. at the urging of my then boyfriend who said, ‘You don’t have to live right ON the bullseye, do you?’
I didn’t realize I was relocating onto a whole new kind of bullseye.”
‘Keeping bees in the carefully-cared-for-but-romanticized-way we were going about it was engrossing, often-challenging but also a highly-hypnotic fantasy. A luxury.’
Seeing that first lost colony was like waking up out of a dream, Harp remembers. It set in motion a long series of realizations culminating in a personal epiphany:
“I could do more to help avert a slowly advancing global food disaster by not continuing to have the idyllic pleasure of beekeeping as a time-consuming hobby, and instead apply my experience as a community organizer, designer, media consultant and national-level consumer advocate - to educate and engage the non-beekeeping public in support of research and local beekeeping – everywhere.”
Side-by-side incorporation of the cause-driven for-profit (Friends of Honeybees, Inc.) and a sister non-profit (Friends of Honeybees Foundation) gave Harp the clean, arm’s-length combination of legal structures from which to create both traditional non-profit fund-raising jobs, as well as social-capital-based investment and employment opportunities, especially as they relate to human’s most relied-upon cross-species friend – the honey bee.
“I had to give up the fantasy of there being one-dimensional answers,” Harp says, “and instead help build a global colony, whose collective-brain-matrix can connect and can cooperatively tease out imaginative, sustainable ways to survive … and thrive.”