The Beez Kneez's Erin Rupp: 5 Questions

Beez Kneez is partnering with Kim Bartmann and ... you!
Beez Kneez is partnering with Kim Bartmann and ... you!

Courtesy Beez Kneez
"Imagine paying $50 for a pint of hand-pollinated strawberries," says the voiceover in this compelling video from the Beez Kneez, a local organization devoted to reviving the bee population in the Twin Cities and educating the local community about how bees affect our overall ecosystem. "That's what a world without bees could look like," says Erin Rupp, director of development and education for the organization, who caught up with the Hot Dish to talk about what the Beez Kneez has been busy with lately.

In support of the plight of the declining bee population and a continuance of her mission to make her restaurants ever more sustainable, restaurateur Kim Bartmann, who also owns the home of the future Beez Kneez Honey House, is collaborating with the Permaculture Research Institute Cold Climate to expand the reach of the project. Her plan, in conjunction with the Beez Kneez, is to farm the grounds to provide food for the Tiny Diner, her upcoming seventh restaurant, scheduled to open this summer.  

But this is just one of several things the Beez Kneez is all abuzz about. The Hot Dish had five questions for Rupp to find out a little more about why the bee population is in trouble and what we can all do to help.
1. The Hot Dish: How did the two of you meet, and what inspired you to start Beez Kneez?
Erin Rupp: Kristy [Allen] started the Beez Kneez over two years ago, in partnership with Bar Bell Bee Ranch, her aunt and uncle's honey and pollination apiary. Motivated by the issues facing pollinators and ultimately our food system, she combined two of her passions, beekeeping and bicycling. I met Kristy in the field at a farm in Osceola, Wisconsin, in late summer of 2009, where we both kept bees. We had a lot in common, and my interest in hands-on learning set the stage for the second phase of the Beez Kneez. Community Bees on Bikes, our education and community beekeeping program, was born! Through Community Bees on Bikes, we partner with community gardens, urban farms, parks, and schools to establish and maintain educational apiaries, or honey bee hives.

So that's how we met, and since then the organization has grown quite a bit. The Beez Kneez now delivers local, raw, unprocessed honey by bicycle to over 150 homes, two farmers markets, three CSAs and 20 businesses. With all that expanding, it's become obvious that we need a honey house of our own to extract and bottle our honey. Other Twin Cities hobby beekeepers need this too. We've been working for the last month on a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the Beez Kneez Honey House, which is scheduled to open on 40th Street East and 42nd Avenue South in Longfellow in August. 

2. HD: What would you say is the most important mission of Beez Kneez?
ER: The Beez Kneez is an education organization working to Revive the Hive! Honey bees pollinate one-third of the food we eat, and they're in trouble. Beekeepers are losing 30% to 40% of their hives annually, and it's looking like this year is the worst on record. We're working to raise awareness of, and connection to, pollinators by establishing and maintaining honey bee hives in public spaces in the Twin Cities, teaching public classes in those hives, and delivering our honey to our community. And we do it all on bicycle.  We're Reviving the Hive!

3. HD: Where are some of the hives that you maintain around town? Who are some of the other businesses and organizations you partner with? 

Rupp: Our Hive Host Sites are community spaces (urban farms, community gardens, schools, and parks). In 2012 we had six host sites and are finalizing more for this year including: Minneapolis Parks' Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and JD Rivers Children's Garden, Sister's Camelot's 5th Ave Community Farm (run in partnership with the West Phillips Neighborhood Association), the Blake School Upper Campus, Kuhl Beans Urban Farm, and McKinley CSA.
4. HD: What are some of the things that make your honey unique? What about your production process affects the taste or quality of the honey? 

Rupp: We sell raw and unprocessed honey. Honey is a food you can eat straight from the bees, and although a lot of large producers will pasteurize it, you don't need to. Because we don't pasteurize it, the honey crystallizes over time and maintains its unique flavor.  And, as we grow our partnerships with Minneapolis community host sites, we'll have more honey from Minneapolis, and from your neighborhood in Minneapolis.  Having a honey house of our own will allow us to increase our honey production.

5. HD: Where can we find Beez Kneez?
Rupp: We bicycle deliver honey to your door, which you can order online. We also sell at the Fulton and Kingfield farmers markets and at Seward Co-Op, Oxendale's Market, Calhoun Cycle, Little Bean, Freewheel Bike, Linden Hills Co-Op, Lake Wine & Spirits, and Head to Toe Boutique. And, starting in August, 2013, at the Beez Kneez Honey House!

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