Heroes to Hives Beekeeping Course Offered at UCM

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Submitted by Adam Ingrao

Heroes to Hives is coming to Missouri. The program originally started in Michigan. The program founder Adam Ingrao said, “I think the best part about all of this is just it’s given me an opportunity to continue to work with fellow veterans.”

By Abram Tabor, University of Central Missouri

Heroes to Hives is a free course for veterans, veteran dependents and active service men and women to pursue community and agriculture through beekeeping. They are now hoping to launch the first chapter outside of Michigan in Missouri at the University of Central Missouri’s Mitchell Street farm.

Heroes to Hives began as a small-scale program with five veterans at Adam Ingrao’s Michigan home in 2015 and has since received funding from the AT&T Foundation and expanded to Michigan State University.

“The goal is really to train veterans to be the next generation of small-scale sustainable beekeepers,” the program’s founder Adam Ingrao said.

The program is for more than just the hives, though. It is also for the heroes.

“Underlying everything we do, Heroes to Hives is really a sort of community development course,” Ingrao said. “It’s bringing veterans together over something positive and getting us together in that context. We’re working bees together. We’re doing something positive together. We’re contributing to our nation’s food security together.”

Adam Ingrao teaches vetrans about beekeeping in the Michigan Heroes to Hives program. “I saw this as an opportunity for me to kind of serve our country again, by protecting our food security. By contributing to the health and wellbeing of managed honeybees,” Ingrao said. (Photo by Submitted by Adam Ingrao)

The program itself is a nine month course in bee-keeping with online and hands-on training. General online instruction will be provided through Michigan State University, with the University of Missouri supplementing Missouri-specific education.

“Once we heard about this program that Michigan State University had, we thought that it would be a really good fit for Missouri because of the number of veterans we have here,” Travis Harper, a University of Missouri Extension agronomist and head of the Missouri state program for Heroes to Hives, said.

Harper said UCM was also an ideal location to establish the first Missouri apiary because they’ve worked together in the past, and the Whiteman Air Force Base is located nearby. Veterans from the base often settle down in Johnson County and the surrounding areas, and many service men and women take courses at UCM while they’re on active duty.

Courtney Swoboda, interim director of military and veteran services at UCM said that the program would be great for UCM because it has a large population of military.

“We have about a thousand military affiliated students on this campus. So, that includes active duty, guard reservists, veterans and dependents,” Swoboda said. Having more opportunities for veterans like this is awesome.”

Swoboda said that one of the things that excited her about the program is that it remains free for active service and veterans while also working within their schedules.

“It sounds like there’s a lot of flexibility in it so those individuals who are interested in beekeeping or anything like, it’s an awesome program to be a part of,” Swoboda said.

One veteran alumni from Heroes to Hives is Gary Brown who now owns and operates his own hives at Gary’s Bees. Brown spent twenty-one years in active military service and then almost ten more in the workforce before getting interested in beekeeping. This interest and some research led him to Heroes to Hives.

“I took the course, and it was absolutely fabulous. They are in depth classes on everything from the biology of bees, to the production of bees, to how to treat them and everything,” Brown said.

Brown highlighted the fact that, as beekeeping is often expensive, Heroes to Hives served as a great way to explore and learn about the field.

“For a lot of first-time beekeepers there’s so many unanswered questions that they run into because they didn’t get really good training,” Brown said. “This course is so in depth into that stuff. So, when you graduate you have a pretty good understanding of whether you’re going to want to do beekeeping or not.”

The 2021 enrollment for Heroes to Hives is closed because of high demand, with almost 10,000 military personnel now enrolled. Their official page has put up an interest form for those who might want to take the 2022 course.

This story was originally published on Muleskinner on March 2, 2021.