FFA: Students Buzzing for Bees through SAEs

One-third of the food you eat depends upon pollination, including almonds, apples, berries, cucumbers and melons. Through a joint effort between the National FFA Organization and Monsanto, five $1,000 grants are being awarded to students who designed projects promoting the sustainability of bee colonies through the National FFA Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) Grant Program.

SAE is a practical application of classroom concepts designed to provide students with real-world experiences, while attaining classroom credits and FFA awards.  This program allows students to gain hands-on experiences through exploring agriculturally-related careers and developing skills, such as improved communications and business management, through planned activities outside of the classroom.

Grant recipients develop their projects by way of one of four methods: entrepreneurship, internship, research-based experimentation or job placement research. The students that are receiving the SAE grants through Monsanto chose to pursue the entrepreneurship route with a focus in either Animal Systems or Food Products and Processing Systems.

“The grant I received from Monsanto will be used for queen rearing and to purchase more hives to increase my bee apery,” said Tyler Stewart, one of the SAE grant recipients.

The five students planned their business with goals, timelines and budgets in mind—most planning on selling honey locally.  Each of the students also plans to expand their bee operations by increasing and strengthening their hives. The interest in pursuing a specialty animal business varied from bringing back a family hobby, building off of research speeches about sustaining honey bee health and an interest in selective breeding management for mite resistance. The students will build their projects and knowledge of honey bee health through a variety of resources, including beekeeper association memberships, workshops, conferences and mentors.

“Not many people have bees in their front yard,” said Stewart. “Bee health is important, because without bees, there wouldn’t be enough pollination, and without pollination, there would be fewer plants and flowers.”

A variety of factors may be contributing to the widespread decline in honey be populations, including parasites, disease and poor nutrition, according to a 2013 USDA and EPA report on honey bee health. Both the National FFA Organization and Monsanto have a vested interest in helping honey bee colonies thrive.

“Honey bees play a vital role in the process of providing a natural variety of nutritious food,” said Jerry Hayes, Monsanto Honey Bee Health lead. “These SAEs have allowed students who are interested in honey be health work to provide viable solutions to preserve the species’ role in agriculture.”