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DATES: October 15 and 16, 2016, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
LOCATION: Fruit & Spice Park, 24801 SW 187 Avenue, Redland, FL
ADMISSION:  $10 cash per person at the gate.
Advance tickets $8 online until Oct. 12 at Brown Paper Tickets .
Children under 12 get in free.
Military families can get free tickets at www.VetTix.org .

GrowFest!
A celebration of all local things edible, green, and growing

Redland GrowFest! returns for the fifth year to the Fruit & Spice Park October 15 & 16, 2016. This annual event celebrates all local things edible, green, and growing. Growers offer a bonanza of seedlings, starter plants and native and tropical fruit trees for home or school gardens and food forest projects. Food and artisan vendors feature products made with Redland-Raised ingredients, like the festival’s signature jackfruit curry.

Bee Aware! is this year’s festival theme, highlighting our pollinators, so essential for many crops. The Tropical Beekeepers Association, this year’s event beneficiary, will be on hand to share information about beekeeping from the hobby to the professional level and their educational projects. The club meets the second Tuesday of each month at the Redlands Community Church.

Organic grower and festival organizer Margie Pikarsky, owner of Bee Heaven Farm, believes it’s important for folks in the South Florida area to be aware of our diverse local agricultural resources, and learn how to take advantage of the unique possibilities our tropical climate offers.

The Chefs’ Local Cookoff Challenge on Sunday, joined this year by a similar Students’ Local Cookoff Challenge on Saturday, asks renowned local chefs and students to get creative with a Mystery Box full of Redland-Raised seasonal crops. Awesome deliciousness results from their inspired dishes!

Lectures and demos throughout the weekend by UF/IFAS/Miami-Dade County Extension agents, 4-H, Master Gardeners, and other local experts will inform growers at all levels – from balcony to backyard growers, urban, small and large farmers.

Event sponsors include Dade County Farm Bureau, Edible South Florida, District 8 Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, UF/IFAS Miami-Dade County Extension, Homestead Hospital, FIU Agroecology Program, Slow Food Miami, Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, Fresh From Florida/Redland Raised, Bee Heaven Farm and the Fruit & Spice Park.

For more information and schedule of activities, visit the Redland GrowFest! web site.

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Beekeeper Debra Roberts and friend

Beekeeper Debra Roberts and friend

Urban Oasis Project is sponsoring two weekend beekeeping workshops on February 1-2, 2014, taught by world-traveling beekeeper Debra Roberts. No experience necessary for the beginner’s class.

Natural Beekeeping for BEEginners:
Come explore honeybee basics, hive equipment and tools, good stewardship practices, how to go through a hive (without bees), and treatment-free (“natural”) beekeeping. Session tailored for BEEginners with no experience (those who think they might like to have bees in the future or just want to learn more about them).

$85 – Full day, Saturday Feb 1 only, at the Kampong in Coconut Grove.
$125 – Full intensive includes Saturday at Kampong in Coconut Grove, and half day on Sunday morning at Verde Farm in Homestead (includes hands-on with bees).

Natural Beekeeping for Beekeepers with Experience:

This session is for beekeepers who have a little to a lot of beekeeping experience, who want to explore treatment-free beekeeping options. Please bring your questions. This afternoon will be tailor-made for what best serves you.

$50 – Half day on Sunday afternoon at Verde Farm.

Note: BEEginners who have taken the intensive are welcome to join the Sunday afternoon session for an additional fee. Please inquire.

Details and Registration: on the Urban Oasis Project web site.
No refunds after January 20th.
Email questions to admin@urbanoasisproject.org .

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Vanishing of the Bees, an intriguing new documentary about Colony Collapse Disorder, is back in town for a FREE one-night screening.  

Date: Sunday August 21, 2011
Time: 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm
Location: Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
10901 Old Cutler Road
Coral Gables FL 33156

Back in May, Vanishing of the Bees showed for only one night at the new, state of the art Coral Gables Cinematheque. And it was a good turnout — over 200 people packed the auditorium. Proceeds from that screening went to support Slow Food Miami’s school garden program.

Beekeeper John Herring and filmmaker Maryam Henein at the May screening.

The filmmaker, Maryam Henein, was present to introduce her film and answered questions after the showing. She was accompanied by John Herring, a beekeeper from Broward County, who brought a sample hive and various tools of his trade, who also answered questions about bees. Farmer Margie Pikarsky and interns Mike and Sadie from Bee Heaven Farm came with many boxes of local honey and wildflower bouquets for sale.

Vanishing of the Bees is a real-life mystery story which begins with two commercial beekeepers, David Hackenberg and Dave Mendes, who tell similar stories of how one day they came to check on their hives and found them inexplicably empty. They realized their problem wasn’t only with their hives, or happening in Southwest Florida where they were located. It was a growing, serious problem in 35 states and also in Europe. Bees were either vanishing, or their immune systems were succumbing to all kinds of pathogens. Populations were dying faster than they could be replaced, and nobody knew why. The film goes on a journey that follows David and Dave as they try to solve their mystery, and in the process they discover how they can keep their bees healthy and productive, and their beekeeping businesses alive.

Through the course of researching and making her film, Maryam became a passionate and tireless activist for the honeybee. Her love and concern is clearly apparent in the film, which weaved a magic spell around the audience that night. As the story unfolded, people were pulled in; and at one scene in the middle, you could almost hear a pin drop as facts built up and pointed to the most likely causes of bee die-offs. The camerawork is amazing, bringing you very close to slow-motion bees in mid-flight, and editing and animation are superb.

Support the bees

The film does end on a hopeful note, that it’s not too late for ordinary people to save the honeybee. “Colony Collapse Disorder is a wake up call,” Maryam said after the screening. “There’s a big abyss between the people who know and the people who don’t know. Every one of you is a worker bee” to get out the word and take action.

She mentioned several ways you can help the bees and support your own good health. The easiest thing to do is buy organic produce and local honey. (You can find both at local farmers markets.) Organic farmers are not allowed to use systemic pesticides or other dangerous chemicals that can harm bees. Most organic farms tend to have a happy mix of several kinds of plants that support bees, and most farms keep hives and sell local honey. 

Mike and Margie from Bee Heaven Farm with honey and wildflower bouquets for sale at the screening.

Another simple thing you can do is avoid buying “honey-flavored” breads, cereals and other products. They are sweetened with honey blends imported from China. “Funny honey” is diluted with lactose syrup, high fructose corn syrup or other sweeteners. It is also tainted with strong antibiotics and lead residues. Corporate bakeries — and the film named General Mills and Pillsbury — buy imported honey because it is very cheap. (Real honey costs a lot more because U.S. beekeepers can’t produce enough to meet demand.) 

If you have the space, a fun thing you can do is plant a bee-friendly garden, with an assortment of plants that bloom throughout the year to attract pollinators. Choose low-maintenance native plants and wildflowers, keep fruit trees, or raise vegetables in your garden or in containers on your patio or balcony. Whatever you do, DO NOT use systemic pesticides! Those are the kind that are applied once a season or once a year as a soil drench, and “provide protection without spraying.” Plants suck those chemicals up through their roots, and all their cells and pollen itself become poisoned. Bees then gather tainted pollen, bring it back to their hive, and make themselves very sick from it, sick to the point of death. 

Support the film

Vanishing of the Bees is a completely independent production, and it took a long time and a lot of money to make it happen. From researching and writing the script to the final edit took about four years to make, and it cost half a million dollars. (Just the editing alone took a year and cost a good chunk of money.) Maryam raised funds a little bit at a time, from donations and sponsorships, and they went toward paying film expenses. When she wasn’t filming, she supported herself at times as a waitress, and admitted that for a while she was on food stamps and maxed out credit cards to survive. 

Maryam and her producers are making their money back with donations and DVD sales. Right now, they are running a promotion and selling the DVD on their web site for a reduced price of $14.99 for a personal viewing license. (They might also be selling the DVD at Sunday’s screening.) Maryam wants to get her DVD into schools. “Education is the beginning,” she said. “We are the generation waking up. The change is coming up in the generations behind us.” At the time of the May screening, she needed to raise about $12 thousand to develop a companion study guide. She is self-distributing her film, and is actively seeking venues for future screenings. The next Florida screening is in Tampa on August 29th.

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Queen of the Sun screening

Queen of the Sun, another independently produced documentary about bees and Colony Collapse Disorder, is in town for this weekend only.

In 1923, Rudolf Steiner, a scientist, philosopher & social innovator, predicted that in 80 to 100 years honeybees would collapse. His prediction has come true with Colony Collapse Disorder, where bees are disappearing in mass numbers from their hives with no clear explanation.

The film is directed by Taggart Siegel, who also directed “The Real Dirt on Farmer John,” a documentary about farmer John Peterson of Angelic Organics.

Showtimes:

  • Fri, May 27th @ 7:45pm
  • Sat, May 28th @ 3:15pm & 5:30pm
  • Sun, May 29th @ 1pm & 3:15pm

Location:

O Cinema
90 NW 29th Street
Miami, FL 33127
(305) 571-9970

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Don’t miss the only second South Florida screening of Vanishing of the Bees, a beautifully filmed, critically acclaimed documentary about Colony Collapse Disorder — the mysterious phenomena that has been killing entire hives of commercial honey bees around the world. (Correction: the documentary also screened on Earth Day as part of a fund raising film and food event. See the writeup in the New Times.)

The screening will be held at the new, state of the art Coral Gables Cinematheque, and is sponsored by Slow Food Miami. Before the screening, there will be complimentary champagne, and savory and sweet local snacks for purchase. Farmer Margie Pikarsky and her crew are bringing honey and flowers from Bee Heaven Farm.

This documentary is independently produced and was many years in the making. Film director Maryam Henein and beekeeper John Herring will answer questions after the screening. All the proceeds from this event go toward Slow Food Miami’s program which builds school and community-based gardens.

Come support the filmmaker, Slow Food and bees. Tickets are $14 each, and you can buy them online. Click on the “reserve your spot now” button to pay by credit card. Hurry, there’s only a few seats left. This screening is one night only.

Wednesday May 4, 2011
6:30 p.m. Complimentary champagne
7:00 p.m. Film screening
8:30 p.m. Q&A with film director Maryam Henein and John Herring, VP of the Broward Beekeepers Association

Location:

Coral Gables Cinematheque
260 Aragon Ave.
Coral Gables FL 33134
786-385-9689

Parking is available in the garage next door.

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Summer has just begun and it’s already a scorcher! We’ve had above normal temperatures since April 26, according to the National Weather Service. Highs have been 90 degrees or above since May 30 (except for a slight dip to 88 on June 1). The heat index has been 100+ degrees most days. Last June was even hotter. Record temperatures were set on June 22, 2009 in Miami with a high of 98. Fort Lauderdale had a high of 100, tying an all time record. This summer feels hotter because temps have consistently been at 90 or above for 59 days and counting, while last summer temps were mostly in the high 80s with a few spikes in the 90s.

The last picture I took before getting chased off by a hot and cranky bee.

This crazy heat has an effect on livestock at Bee Heaven Farm. Chickens stand with their beaks open, panting, and hold their wings out a bit to their sides to try to cool off. Bees don’t like heat and get cranky. I passed by the hives when beekeeeper Miguel Bode was working with them a few weekends ago. One bee took offense to where I was standing, buzzed around my head, and chased me for a good distance. Lucky for me, I didn’t get stung but it felt close! Even the worms in the vermiculture bin have been suffering mightily. Instinctively they’ve dived down to the bottom of the bin, seeking cooler soil, but hit bottom instead. The Worm Guy (that’s what Margie calls him) advised chilling them down with frozen water bottles buried in the bin. Wigglers on the rocks, anyone?

I asked Farmer Margie what grows well in this kind of heat. “Weeds!” she exclaimed. Those weeds completely took over vegetable beds after Gleaning Day. Margie mowed them down, and now that she’s had two days without rain, she’s out on her tractor tilling the soil, preparing to plant cover crops.

Some summer fruit is finally starting to get ready, but running a little behind schedule because of the freeze this winter. The extended period of super cold weather caused plants to go dormant for weeks. Lychees (Mauritus variety) are bearing late this year. Margie pointed out that last year, a bumper crop of lychees were harvested in late May. This year the harvest began in mid-June, and the quantity isn’t quite as much.

Mauritus lychees from last summer.

Another casualty of the cold are mango trees which were in bloom in January when the freeze hit. The long stretch of freezing temperatures damaged blossoms. Some fruit set and grew, but then aborted and fell off. I’ve seen trees that don’t have as much fruit, and if they do, they’re not as plentiful and not as big or developed.

Half-grown Donnie avocado.

Avocado trees seemed to escape significant damage from the freeze in January. Branches are loaded with fruit several inches long, about the size of Haas avocados in the groceries. If you’re not familiar with Florida avocados, and you have a tree in your yard, don’t get confused and pick early! The varieties that grow here, especially the Donnies that Margie raises, get much much, much bigger than the Haas variety from California or Mexico. Last summer many Donnie avocados weighed in at 3 pounds apiece, and one giant weighed 4 pounds. Avocado picking will start in mid-July, also several weeks later than last summer.

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Bee Yard wanted

Beekeeper Miguel Bode

You might have seen beekeeper Miguel Bode selling honey and beeswax candles at fairs and festivals and markets all around town. If you bought wildflower, avocado or lychee/longan honey from him (or Farmer Margie), those are the products of his bees kept at Bee Heaven Farm, among other farm locations. I caught up with him at Ramble, and noticed he had a sign saying he was looking for a bee yard in suburban Miami. Your reward? All the honey you can eat — and an opportunity to do something to help honey bees survive.

“A bee yard is a place where bees can be put and survive,” Miguel explained. The ideal location is secluded or isolated, in an area where people will not go often. It would be a place where the bees won’t be disturbed or disturb anyone else, and preferably close to a fence. When choosing a spot, consider the other side of the fence, so that bees coming and going from their hives don’t disturb the neighbor having a barbecue, for example.

A row of bee hives at Bee Heaven Farm

Specifically, Miguel is looking for a space big enough for multiple hives, at least 15-20 at the most. The hives are boxes stacked in a row 2 feet wide by 12 feet long. He would like to set up 3 rows, with an 8 foot buffer in between. That translates to a patch of yard that would be 12 feet by 22 feet in size, not including any space immediately around the hives.

Currently Miguel is keeping most of his bees in agricultural areas. He explained that bees produce less in Redland that in the suburbs. In spring when avocado, lychee and longans bloom there’s plenty of food for the bees, but during the rest of the year there’s not as much variety. Miguel would like to move his bees to the Pinecrest or Old Cutler Road areas where the yards are large and there’s plenty of different things blooming year round. The typical yards in the city are too small for so many hives, though. Special landscaping is not that important. Bees will fly to wherever they find flowers. They usually range about one mile, and will go as far as three miles.

Bee yard wanted, sweet reward!

Pets and kids are usually not a problem, and will quickly learn not to bother. Generally, honey bees are not aggressive and will not willfully attack you. Just don’t go up to the hive and start hitting it, then they will get upset! Bees only sting as a last resort. Open pools (not screened in) are a red flag because bees are attracted to water to drink, and might frighten or sting people in or around the pool. Yes, bees drink water (I have seen a bee sipping water from a puddle), and during the dry months of March, April and May they need lots of water.

If you like bees and honey and think your back yard is the perfect spot, contact Miguel Bode at beemyhoneymiami(at)yahoo.com .

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