The 158th recipient is Ang Roell @theykeepbees in Great Falls, MA. Ang writes, “My name is Ang (they/them) and I’m a white, Slavic nonbinary first generation apiculturist AKA beekeeper.
They Keep Bees tends bees in Western Massachusetts, Southern Vermont and on the central coast of Florida. We make queen bees, beeswax, honey and propolis. We teach about bees too.
In a beehive, the influences of the ecosystem shapes the actions of the hive as a collective. As stewards of honeybees we listen to the ecology around us and observe the response within our hives to make decisions about the best actions we can take.
I got into apiculture as a way to reconnect to my Slavic ancestral heritage. I grew up in a tiny apartment in NYC. I was raised on stories from my elders about Slavic folk culture and the connection between humans and the wide green world around us. My grandpa taught me how to find robin nests and bee hives high up in trees, my grandma taught me how to gather and prepare food… and even though my journey to reconnect with the Earth took a circuitous route from there, I eventually found my way back to the lessons my elders modeled when I was small.
Today bee farming is a way of rooting into queer and nonbinary futures in collaboration and connection to the Earth where I am now. It is a way of building a future where collaborative community with bees and people is possible. Beekeeping at the scale we operate relies on having hives in many locations. Which means many relationships with many land stewards who are committed to supporting pollinators. It means a lot of communication, consistency and collaboration.
It means I don’t work one piece of soil in perpetuity but rely on a web of relationships with land and people to make my business run. Nowhere that I farm is the place my people are from, because I can’t go back there. And the land I call home here is stolen land. There is both weight and responsibility in caring for the Earth where I am while holding that truth.
What ‘support’ and ‘care’ are is something I sit with a lot these days. The last year of my farming career I’ve been recovering from a car accident that left me with a traumatic brain injury and mobility limits. This past year has truly taught me how to consistently care for my working body and brain throughout the season. It’s taught me I can’t do it all, nor should I set this unrealistic expectation for myself. I’ve had to practice asking for help and getting clear on my capacity and role on the farm. I’ve had to practice letting go and letting in. I’ve opened up the idea that care can take so many forms and all of them can evolve based on our capacities, needs and desires.”