I will describe some of the challenges our business, Foothills Honey Company LLC, is facing as the landscape changes around us. More and more of the available forage for bees and other pollinators is managed for agriculture and other uses. Crops change as prices and labor costs fluctuate and all the while the efficiency of farming practices increases. When grass seed or hazelnut acreage increases dramatically, for instance, the effect is the creation of virtual pollinator deserts. I will discuss the beekeeping management adjustments being caused by these land use changes, as well as some interesting responses at the landscape level.

Presenter: George Hansen, Foothills Honey Company LLC

After a short six year career as a public school teacher, George Hansen transformed a hobby beekeeping operation into a commercial endeavor. Starting from a few swarms and a collection of retrieved nuisance hives, the company now runs 5000 colonies in three states. Although the name of the company never changed, the focus of the beekeeping is now primarily pollination service, with honey, wax and bee sales making up no more than 30 percent of gross revenues. George and his wife Susan are currently transitioning their business to their sons Matt and Joe. George is an active member of the beekeeping community, promoting the industry’s interests as past president of the American Beekeeping Federation and formerly as a producer representative on the National Honey Board. He hosts an annual Bee Day workshop and orientation at the Foothills Honey Company home site. Currently, George represents the ABF on the Honey Bee Health Coalition, participating on work groups tackling forage, nutrition, crop pest control, and beekeeping management issues.

Additionally, George is a self-taught painter, currently using the encaustic medium. Encaustic is a mixture of beeswax and tree resins which gives the paint a high melting point and added hardness, compared to plain wax. Melted beeswax and resin is pigmented, and applied to the surface while liquid. The painting is built up with repeated layers of wax, each level fused to the previous using a heat source, like a propane torch or heat gun. The surface can be worked with heated tools or scrapers to sculpt the work or create texture.