A bee wrangler shows you how to mind your own beeswax
From activists to politicians, everybody loves to talk about the promise of green jobs. But in reality, who the heck actually has a green job, and how do you get one? In our new column, “I Have a Green Job,” Grist will be regularly profiling one of the lucky employed who has landed a job in the new green economy, or a green job in the old economy.
Know someone with a green job and a good story? Tell us about them!
Rachel HewittMeet Michael Thompson, 62, professional bee wrangler and co-founder of Chicago Honey Co-op, a Chicago-based agricultural cooperative that’s dedicated to chemical-free beekeeping, growing community, and entrepreneurial dreams of garlic.
Q. How does the Chicago Honey Co-op work?
A. You can buy a hive and put it there and learn beekeeping, or we can take care of the hive for you. The only rule we have really is that you can’t use any chemicals in your hives. We have a pretty strict rule about that. We also have a community farm there.
Q. What were you hoping to accomplish with the co-op?
A. Producing delicious, healthy food — that was our first goal. The other goal that we set out for ourselves was to have a business that could support itself. And the other thing we wanted to do was job training in an area of Chicago where people really need jobs.
Q. What long and winding road led you to where you are today — as director of the Chicago Honey Co-op?
A. I’d say it started in southern Kansas when I was a child. I had an early need to find out how to grow things, so I asked these matriarchs. They were in their 70s or 80s at the time. They taught me how to grow food, and by the time I was 10, I was growing tomatoes and dragging them around in wagons to the neighbors and selling them at 10 cents a pound.
By the time I was 12, I had badgered my parents for a bee hive because I’d read about it in an encyclopedia, and they bought me a beehive as a present for my birthday.