January 19, 2018, San Francisco War Memorial
Good Food Awards Honey Category Acceptance Talk – Christina Joy Neumann
On behalf of honey-makers (bees included), I’d like to express our sincere appreciation to the Good Food Foundation for creating this award which gives awareness to all the hard work that goes into producing “good” honey. Good honey is authentically-crafted honey made with a focus on natural beekeeping and humane bee treatment amidst all the challenges.
My name is Christina Joy Neumann and I’m an urban beekeeper in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with a metro population over two-million. All of my 50-80 production hives are located within 10-miles of downtown Pittsburgh and are Certified-Naturally-Grown.
My journey with the bees began many years ago as an architect studying Biomimicry , which is design problem solving using the natural world as insight. While mentoring with termites to understand how those social insects play an ecological role in tree composting, another social insect, the honey bee, won over my fascination simply because SHE crafts food (… sorry termites, for us, most tree celllose isn’t as yummy as honey ). Globally, bees pollinate 70% of flowering plants that provide sustenance for countless wildlife and human-life. Without bees, honey would not be the only Good Food Award category to suffer. There would be no large apples for Cider , no plump coffee cherries for Coffee nor any plentiful milk for Cheese from dairy cows who feed on bee-pollinated clover and alfalfa.
Beyond pollination, bees offer other inspiration for our divisive times . Specifically, honey bees have a method to work together in decision-making that leads to group action known as “Honey-Bee-Democracy.” That term was coined by Cornell Professor Tom Seeley after years of his research to understand how bees decide to swarm.
Swarming is a bee colony’s natural way of reproducing by division. The process requires half the colony to leave and find a new home through agreement of 30,000 or more worker bees. Workers figure the logistics of the move by Three Steps : # 1. Unbiased Fact-Finding by scout bees to scope-out new locations # 2. Fact-Verification by additional scout bees who double-check prospective new homes # 3. Collective Action based on the choice of a new home that makes a critical number of bees feel most Positive. It’s an amazing experience to watch the intense coordinated movement of thousands of bees in a swarm shift to an energy of peacefulness once they have settled to a secure new home. We humans, as a species of supposed higher intelligence , could learn alot from these insects who work together to seek out what is true and good then act collectively with hope.
While joining The Women’s March on Washington, DC . almost a year ago today, I held a sign reading “Honey-Bee-Democracy” featuring a circle of bees surrounding the earth. I’ve made a recyclable sticker of that sign that I’m happy to give to anyone who might appreciate some bee inspiration. It’s another small step to advocate for our little honey co-creators who deserve much respect for all the symbiotic work they do for us and our planet.
(Many thanks to Cornell Professor Tom Seeley for his highly insightful research into swarm dynamics that has led to a better understanding of the social honey bee hive’s methodology for communication and group decision making. You can read more about his research in his book “Honeybee Democracy” (Princeton University Press; 1st Edition edition (October 10, 2010)) and there is a fantastic YouTube lecture of Prof. Seeley explaining the research detailed in the book HERE. )
You can listen to all the speeches during the evening at this link: 2018 Good Food Awards Recording. The Honey Category starts at around the 1 h.:23m.:00 s. point in the 2018 GFA ceremony.