WAS President's Message, Spring 2019

What do you want from your beekeeping conference?  What do you want from the Western Apicultural Society?  These have been the pervasive questions that I’ve been posing to people in the beekeeping community for the past half of a decade.  Especially the last two years while transitioning into the role of president and conceptualizing this conference. 

First, the conference.  I received feedback from what people have loved about other conference experiences, what they want to see more of in the future, and what they would like to see go away, as well.  I’ve also been to (at this point) nearly 100 conferences, as a speaker and an attendee, and I’ve got the badge collection to prove it!!

There have been three main themes:

·        People want more time to process the speakers’ words and concepts.  Suggestions were for longer breaks between sessions to take a breather and let the messages percolate in, or through organized networking events to debrief with friends.

·        People don’t want to hear the same thing from the same speakers over and over again.  I.e. If there are five speakers, only one of them needs to drill home Varroa mite management.

·        People want to feel like they are coming away from the conference inspired and empowered with the right tools to make a positive difference.  That difference is scalable; some want to know how to keep their one hive from dying this winter, others want to gain an idea to improve habitat on a whole city block, and some people want to understand how to affect state or nation-wide legislation. 

Your conference organizers (The WAS board, staff, contractors, and collaborators, and Bee Girl staff and board) are rising to these hopes and pulling off a conference that is not your average beekeeping event!  We have designed a four day spread that we know will keep you engaged and leave you inspired.  I will list a few of the highlights we have arranged for you here, and we encourage you to check out our very detailed and comprehensive website for more information. 

Thursday, July 11th: Rafting the Rouge, Oregon Shakespeare Festival.       

Friday, July 12th: Live-streamed conference opening by Dr. Marla Spivak, opening keynote from Katrina Klett (who just presented at SXSW), keynote by Hilary Kearney, Happbee hour (free beer!), #beekeeperfail storytelling hour.  

Saturday, July 13th: Bee-themed sunrise yoga, keynote by Dr. Meghan Milbrath, Roundtable Speed Swarm (swarm over and sit a spell with your favorite bee world experts), keynote by Dr. Judy Wu-Smart, workshops on apitherapy, art, pesticides, queen breeding, social media management, and native bee habitat, Happbee Hour, Community Waggle Dance Table Top Show (come see what amazing projects your fellow beeks have been working on), farm-to-table banquet and awards.              

Sunday, July 14th: WAS Annual Membership Meeting, last keynote by Katrina Klett and Myself, hand-on beekeeping workshops by Dr. Ju-Smart and Dr. Milbrath, self-guided farm and bee habitat tour of 30 farms in the Rogue Valley (collaboration with the Ashland and Medford Food Co-ops), bumble bee workshop on Mt. Ashland with Dr. Jamie Strange, FlowHive demonstration and bee habitat workshop by Stuart Anderson, Flowhive co-inventor,  at The Farm at SOU, bee-friendly vineyard tour and wine tasting and Irvine & Roberts vineyard. 

Every aspect of this weekend has been designed with the conference theme in mind, “Hive Mind for the Greater Good.”  You are guaranteed to come away knowing new friends and feeling refreshed and inspired.       

Second, the potential of WAS!  This topic isn’t quite as clear, as WAS is now in its 41st year and has meant so many things to so many people over the years.  Let’s just be honest, many have had great experiences, others have found the dynamics more than challenging.  For the last few years I’ve been holding “town hall” type meetings at WAS, and in other arenas, to listen to beekeepers about what they need.  I meet with “next gen” beekeepers to define issues in the beekeeping world, brainstorm solutions, and develop action items for positive change.  I’ve hosted about a dozen meetings from coast to coast, and from small, rural towns to great big cities.  One thing is for certain, every group’s needs are different.  Every person’s needs are different.  But there is one resounding theme, people love being brought together (in a friendly atmosphere) to talk about what is important to them, and leaving the room feeling like they have a fresh set of ideas on how to leave a legacy of making their world a better place.  So this is what I would like the Western Apicultural Society to do for the beekeeping community.     

Myself and the WAS executive board have been working hard to envision what this means.  I know I speak for all when I say, thank you for being members of WAS and for electing us to these offices and trusting us to guide the organization forward!  None of us take this task lightly, and have devoted countless hours thinking about, discussing, and taking action on the future potential and sustainability of this organization!

Among the current benefits that WAS offers to the beekeeping community are: an annual conference, a scholarship fund for full time students to attend the conference, a research fund, the WAS Journal, a comprehensive website full of great resources, and social media and newsletter platforms for WAS beekeepers to share their innovations and ideas.         

Going into the future we would like to keep all of what we do, especially continuing the conference, and also work to build capacity by getting our individual states more involved through organizing small community events and expert panels, supporting state directors working on legislation, offering a directory for you to connect with each other, and more! 

However, this vision is not possible without additional support in the form of staff.  We have come to the realization that (even to carry the conference forward) the organization needs leadership consistency from year-to-year by individuals who are compensated for their hard work. 

In the upcoming weeks, the board will be discussing fundraising strategies, including a membership fee increase.  I hope you will join me in feeling great about supporting this organization to continue our work, and build even more capacity, for the price of a fancy cup of coffee per month!

Speaking of changes, please do take a look at the proposed changes to the WAS bylaws on page XX.  Your bylaws committee members are a diligent and eagle-eyed group of individuals who have put countless hours into making this document comprehensive.  Thank you, team!

I’d also like to draw your attention to the WAS website to learn about one of my favorite things, food!  There you will find menus of the food that is included in your conference registration (and the list of farmers, ranchers, and fishermen who produced it). 

I worked diligently for weeks with our conference venue to ensure the chef sources food from local, sustainable producers to create a menu that supports bee-friendly practices. We feel that we can make a positive difference in our community by supporting the local food system with an event of this magnitude, so thank you for being a part of this event and helping to create positive change!

You’ll be treated to some seriously good eats in Ashland, and we can’t wait to lift a glass with you.

I’m looking forward to seeing you this summer,

Sarah Red-Laird

Western Apicultural Society President