By Anne Reynolds
Over the past few years, honey bees have faced a mysterious and severe decline known as Colony Collapse Disorder. This loss has affected bee colonies throughout the United States and in parts of Europe, and because bee pollination is crucial for the successful growth of many agricultural crops — from almonds to soy beans — strengthening the health of bees directly supports agricultural diversity and success.
George Mason is well-positioned to help solve this problem. In 2012, the university established two apiaries on its Fairfax Campus, which have served as educational resources for Mason faculty and students across many disciplines. Additionally, NCC offers a popular class on beekeeping and sustainability and plans to develop more course offerings in the future.
The university has teamed with Sweet Virginia Foundation, a Northern Virginia beekeeping cooperative, to launch HiveStarter: The Honey Bee Initiative of George Mason University and Sweet Virginia Foundation.
HiveStarter is a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, the world’s largest crowdfunding site. The goal is to raise $10,000. By visiting the campaign site, a donor can claim one or more special perks ranging from a sample of honey to an up-close tour of the Mason apiary while clad in a protective bee suit. Proceeds from the campaign will support the construction and management of new apiaries throughout Northern Virginia and the National Capital Region.
“New Century College is delighted to be part of this exciting campaign,” says Lisa Gring-Pemble, associate dean of New Century College. “Mason’s unique partnership with Sweet Virginia Foundation highlights how our community can make an impact in addressing a serious social and worldwide problem — the alarming disappearance of honey bees. Together, we aim to establish more hives in our region, educate young people and create a model for sustaining honey bees that can be replicated around the world.”
Mason is the first public university in the United States to partner with Indiegogo. Spurred by university president Ángel Cabrera’s involvement with the Clinton Global Initiative, which taps global leaders to find creative solutions to significant challenges, the university’s tie with Sweet Virginia Foundation on this campaign creates a model for innovative partnerships between public universities and private entities.
“We are delighted with the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit at George Mason,” says Dan Price, founder of Sweet Virginia Foundation.
For every $400 raised during the 45-day HiveStarter campaign, Sweet Virginia Foundation and George Mason University will build and maintain a new honey bee hive in the community around Washington, D.C. These hives, in turn, will allow future beekeepers to gain educational experience while building the local bee population.
“Ours is a vision rooted in the belief that local community action can result in transformative global change,” explains Gring-Pemble. “With your help we can make a difference.”