On behalf of myself, Karen Parker, our Secretary, and Mike Campion, our Treasurer, I would like to thank the membership for the opportunity to serve and lead the Connecticut Beekeepers Association for the past 6 years. I followed all those before me who formed the foundation that made this a great organization to grow from.
I came into this with a lot of ideas on how to improve the organization and the direction that I would like to see CBA move. Sadly, there were challenges that required attention and cut back on what we could realistically accomplish. Nevertheless, I’m proud of the many accomplishments that we have managed to achieve over the years. Here are some of the highlights.
Our initial challenge was leading the fight to preserve the position of the state bee inspector. We gained a lot of visibility working with outside agencies such as the Connecticut Farm Bureau, the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, and several state senators and representatives.
The following year, CBA celebrated its 125th anniversary. We hosted a large celebration that showcased CBA to the state. We had over 400 attendees, most of who were not beekeepers, and came just to learn about bees and beekeeping. Even Steve Repasky, Director of the Connecticut Department of Agriculture attended. We received recognition from the governor.
Gosia Liedlich, who stepped down from her position of Vice President last year, was instrumental in our accomplishments. She re-formatted our membership list, redesigned our website, and set up our ability to accept payment for our events and memberships through PayPal. She dragged me, kicking and screaming away, from the old newsletter format to the email blast format. Sadly, that is the way that organizations communicate with their memberships nowadays. Everyone wants 2-minute blurbs, not large newsletters. I couldn’t argue with the fact that only 14% of the membership opened their electronic newsletters.
CBA had always been financially challenged. We helped to make ends meet through the 50/50 raffles and the auctions at every meeting. We were usually able to meet the expenses of speakers and we put on great programs, but it was difficult. Through some systemic changes, we have CBA now on a solid financial footing. The treasury has grown from around $14,000 (including savings), to over $100k. This has freed us to establish new programs, such as Bill Hesbach’s Bee Talks. In the future, CBA can look at establishing new educational programs.
Former Member at Large Mike Carey started a youth Scholarship program. We had essays submitted by several interested, aspiring kids. We paired the winner with a seasoned mentor. Sadly, a bear ended that endeavor, but perhaps we can try the program again in the future.
Each year we continued having great Southern New England Beekeepers Assembly (SNEBA) programs in Groton Connecticut. We had some great speakers such as Dave Tarpy, Mike Palmer, Jim Tew, and many more!
A long-serving Program Chair for CBA, Al Avitable, helped us greatly increase educational outreach to new beekeepers. We expanded from 1 bee school a year to two bee schools. One year we even had three. Every bee school had nearly 100 attendees. Al booked great speakers for our meetings over the years. He also organized a candle making workshop with the late Aaron Morris.
Al also proposed and implemented a bee-friendly ‘tree give away’. We purchased small seedlings and Al put them in pots and brought them to the meeting. We gave them away at our summer picnics. One time we gave away Red Bud. Another time we gave away Clethra. This was very popular at a small expense. Al felt that if we did this every year, we would be improving the forage across Connecticut in years to come.
Ted Jones and Richard Moore developed and matured the workshops at Massaro Farm. We used to limit the workshops to 20 people per session. We found that people would sign up and then not attend. So we opened them to all who wanted to come. The workshops have been very successful and well-received. Ted and Richard have managed to keep them running through COVID by conducting virtual workshops.
Bill Hesbach established a mentor program. He is dealing with the issues of more mentees than mentors, but the program has provided the opportunity for many new beekeepers to be able to get their questions answered. Bill also started the monthly Bee Talks program. He’s carried those on in spite of COVID. This is another teaching opportunity for our community.
Higher visibility of beekeepers in Connecticut is leading more towns to control and regulate beekeeping. To support our members, we drafted our first set of Best Management Practices for Beekeepers. This has been used as a guide by several municipalities, including my own home town of East Lyme, to draft zoning ordinances to allow beekeeping as an accessory use of their property.
This past year, Jose Salinas joined the board. He took our outdated bylaws and rewrote them to be consistent and more in line with corporate operations and state requirements.
For the board that will be elected at the upcoming annual meeting, I wish you continued success. Work together for the organization. Try to find common ground with those of different opinions. I know that CBA will go in different directions from the agenda I set. That will hopefully deliver good results. Change is difficult but can be good and it can breathe new life into an organization.
While I am stepping down, I will not be going away. I hope to assist in side-projects, such as the queen breeders initiative and the sustainable apiary initiative. I look forward to spending more time managing my bees. As I say at every bee school, beekeeping is about education and learning. Don’t give up. You are the future of beekeeping in Connecticut.
President, Connecticut Beekeepers Association