My name is Eliese Watson and I am the founder of A.B.C. So I have been thinking and thinking, what do I write in A.B.C’s first blog entry. I wanted to say something monumental, something with a community focus, something that really brings A.B.C to the surface and gives it a face. And last night while drinking a celebratory pint with Adrian, he mentioned that it would probably do best to explain how and why A.B.C came about. So, heres the story….
Well, I guess this story begins at the fall Calgary Farmers Market in 2008. I had been working at Blush Lane Organics for some time and had really become acquainted with a very unique and diverse community of growers and eaters. Conversations about local food systems, food-miles, and sustainability practices really made me realize how much I was missing living in the country and getting the soil between my fingers and toes. I had been living in the city for 4 years and had yet to put shovel to dirt. I had the very fortunate circumstances to live in some of the high density housing downtown which left me, and still does, without a balcony or yard. And as one of the landless poor found in this fair city, I had no car and enough money for food and rent. But I was determined to do what I had been reading about: keep bees here in Calgary. I had spent a fair amount of time that winter reading about all aspects of beekeeping and I was excited for the coming spring.
I had read about Top-Bar beekeeping methods and I was eager to build a hive with my two hands. I am not a carpenter by any means, but my friend Guillaum of Belle Grain woodworks is and he had the tools and patients to show me around the shop. I built my own blueprints and went to work. I succeeded in building my first Top-Bar hive by February of 2009 and was eager to put it to work but I needed land and bees, neither of which I had convenient access to. So, calling around, speaking to some customers at the Farmers Market, I managed to get a few interested landowners willing to share their yards with my future bee-children. It was challenging because I thought that beekeeping in Calgary was illegal, as it is in Edmonton by the way, and was planning on doing it guerrilla style.
I went to Local 101 (Local 201 will be on this year in March, check out www.foragefoods.com) in March of 2009 and met Cherie Andrews of Chinook Honey. She is a sitting member of the Calgary and Area Beekeepers Association and let me know that it wasn’t illegal to keep bees in the city, but it wasn’t protected either, it fell under bylaw. So, technically I could keep bees without the fear of choppers with spotlights, SWAT jumping from the trees, and I, running on foot sweating in my beesuit looking for a car to hide under! She also connected me with Josh Markle, a beekeeper and writer for Beatroute magazine.
Next thing I know, there is a picture and story about me in the magazine, 35 voicemail on my phone, and everyone is eager to hear about the Calgary woman who is going to save the bees. I have to be honest with you here, this scared the bees’ knees out of me, I didn’t know what to do. I was no expert and I was just planning on hiding out in a friend’s yard with my bees for the summer. So, it wasn’t with a little relief that I went tree planting for the summer after I lost my job with Blush. I practically ran in to the bush! But, once the summer came to an end and I went to complete my scholarship project with Co-operators Impact! Sustainability Conference in Guelph, I met Farouk Jiwa, Director and Co-Founder of Honey Care Africa (www.honeycareafrica.com). I spoke to him about the supportive climate in Calgary, the incredible opportunity to spearhead something significant and dear to my heart, A.B.C and also about my fears of messing it up. He gave me the advice that has made A.B.C what it is today. I don’t need to be the expert, there are people in my community who have been beekeeping for longer than I have been alive, learning is lifelong and maybe one day I could be an expert, my job was to connect the experts with the eager, and facilitate the development of partnership and cultivate community. So, I went home, applied for the Co-operators Impact! Fund and received a grant for this project in December of 2009.
So, here we are, our first year in action, 2010 is going to be a year of significant shift and change for this city: I can feel it in my bones! There is so much going on and this summer it is going to crescendo with a convergence of community and sustainable consciousness. Thank you for showing interest, taking the time to have a look around, and taking part in making change. Although you may feel that you have contributed little in looking at this site, it is choosing to educate yourself and investigating into A.B.C that has helps keep the wheels spinning for A.B.C. Thank you