Beekeeping in the ‘Burbs

With honeybee populations dropping all over the world, the impact is startling. Some busy beekeepers have taken to rooftops and backyards to help grow the population. They’re not just doing it for the bees, though. Hobbyists find numerous sweet rewards in suburban beekeeping. 


What The Buzz is About

All over, numbers of honey bees are dwindling. According to Greenpeace, the numbers of commercial honey bees in the United States have tumbled 40% since 2006. As shocking as that decline is, the repercussions are far worse. Pesticides are wiping out the population that has contributed to more than sweet honey production. Key to the agriculture industry, bees pollinate crops. A third of the food that we eat depends on pollinating insects.

This urgent situation has contributed to the rise of urban and suburban beekeeping. Saving the world food supply one hive at a time, keepers add to the population and contribute to local ecosystems. By giving these colonies a home, beekeepers get plenty in return. Bees produce wax and honey, which both have multiple uses. Some beekeepers save the honey for themselves while others sell their raw honey and wax. By selling a bee-byproduct, contributions to local economies make more than financial impacts. Beekeeping and bee saving awareness is spread to increase the urgency of saving the diminishing populations.


To-Beekeep? Or Not To-Beekeep?

So how can you begin your beekeeping journey? Luckily, bees are fairly self-sufficient and need very little pampering. As states, they are independent and need very little to sustain once established. Anita Deeley of Beverly Bees breaks down the basics of beekeeping and what you need to start. Here she explains the parts of the hive, how to assemble a pre-made hive, and how to add bees. You can build a hive and wait for tenants to show up or you can speed the process. You can purchase bees online from multiple suppliers. The Farmers Almanac has a great guide on Beekeeping 101 and how to get bees into your hive once built. It is also a great resource to learn more about terminology, characteristics of the hive, and hierarchy. Knowing the difference between a swarm and nucleus will help you quickly navigate your new world of beekeeping.


Bee-hold Your New Role

Once you’ve established your hive and settled your bees, watch how they behave. says that much like humans, bees are in better moods when the weather is nice. When going in to handle the bees or disturb the hive for any reason, pick a pleasant weather day. The defensiveness of your colony is lowered when they aren’t combatting harsh conditions. If it is nice out, there’s a good chance they’re all out for the day collecting pollen. You will lower your risk of getting stung by learning more about their nature and activities. Keeping Backyard Bees has a great article on the Top 7 Reason You Have Cranky Bees. Learning what signs to watch out for will keep you and your hive happy.


Take the Sting Out of Cohabitation

Interested in suburban beekeeping but worried about how it will affect your surrounding neighbors? Eric Hanan, a founder of Bee Bold Apiaries says that “Honeybees are not interested in us. It’s pretty safe if you respect nature and how it works.” So long as you keep a happy and healthy hive, your bees shouldn’t pose a problem to others. Always consult your state laws and legislation as to if you are legally allowed to keep bees on your property. Most states do not have explicit laws surrounding suburban beekeeping, but it is better to check first.


Easy to begin, fun to learn, and impactful for generations to come, beekeeping is a rewarding adventure.By helping maintain and increase the bee population, you are helping save the Earth’s food supply. And the free honey isn’t a terrible perk either!


PHOTO: Pixabay / CC0 Public Domain

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Easiest Things for Beginning Gardeners to Grow

There are many reasons for wanting to start your own garden. Whether you want to implement a healthier lifestyle or you prefer the fresh taste of homegrown veggies, get started! If gardening is new to you, you may worry you don’t have a “green thumb.” However, many vegetables provide a great starting point for beginning gardeners. All you need is a little bit of planning and the right plant choices.

If you’re thinking to yourself “I can’t garden because I don’t live in the right environment,” think again. Suburban farming and gardening work in all kinds of climates! Plants are resilient and can live in many types of environments with proper care. Many plants, like tomatoes and zucchinis, do well as potted plants. They grow so abundantly you’ll be begging your friends and neighbors to take some from you!


Best Plants for Beginning Gardeners

What are your personal favorite types of veggies? Odds are they’re easy to grow in southwest Ohio. 

Leafy greens

Lettuce, cabbage, spinach or chard make a great starting point. They grow better in cooler weather, so you can start early in the year, in temperatures between 45 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. And, they grow fast. The quick gratification will boost your confidence and motivate you to keep learning more about gardening.


Tomatoes come in numerous varieties, so you might check with your local nursery to see what they recommend for starting out. For your first time, you should opt for starter plants rather than buying seeds. Cherry tomatoes are considered some of the easiest to grow. Tomatoes even hang in there if you forget to water them once in a while!

Green Beans

Green beans or string beans grow easily from seeds. Did you ever do that experiment in elementary school where you plant a seed in a cup? It’s really that easy. Wait for the threat of frost to pass then plant them in spring or summer.

Root Vegetables

Root vegetables like carrots, parsnips, beets, radishes, and potatoes require a little extra prep work for the soil. Till the ground and remove any rocks. You can also try creating a raised bed for these if you’re up for it. They should produce plenty of edible results, including the roots and the greens.


Squash are among the easiest plants to grow in Ohio but they can take over your garden. Choose from Zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers, patty pan, butternut, or pumpkins. Plant them in containers or directly in the ground.


Talk to your neighbors to see what works for them, too. Even within one state or region, soil and conditions vary from place to place. And more experienced veterans usually enjoy sharing their wisdom with beginning gardeners.

Be sure to document what works and what doesn’t. Then you can go back to your notes next year and see what you need to adjust. Growing your own garden is truly one rewarding. The best part is sitting down at the kitchen table and enjoying the fruits of your own labor.

PHOTO: Pixabay / CC0 Public Domain

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5 Reasons Suburban Farming is Hot

The world has started paying more attention to the quality of food we consume. Our fresh vegetables get treated with pesticides that can harm us and the soil. Livestock is pumped with steroids and antibiotics so they can grow faster. Not only do these practices affect our health, they also affect the taste of our food. That’s why many Americans have started to embrace suburban farming. You don’t need a huge tract of land to grow things. Besides edible plants, many people choose to raise chicken or goats. Whether you plant a garden in your yard or cooperate in a community farm, you gain more control over the quality of your food. Plus, you can make a huge positive impact on your community and your environment.


1. It Builds Community

For some, suburban gardens might just be a private little garden in the family’s backyard. But for many, vegetable and fruit gardens become a community project. In fact, the USDA has even recognized the importance of suburban farming and has launched a campaign called People’s Garden. The idea is to educate the community about sustainable living and how gardens help improve the environment around them. There are thousands of People’s Gardens all over the U.S. They even have gardens in 4 U.S. territories and 12 different countries.

People who participate not only learn new things, they build relationships. In today’s world we don’t often go out of our way to meet our neighbors. We could live next to someone for years and never even know their names. Community gardens give us a good reason to get out the house and socialize. You could even organize a get-together during harvest and share tips for next year’s planting or trade recipes. By building relationships with neighbors you build safer a and stronger community where neighbors go from strangers to lasting friends.


2. It’s Great for Your Health

Gardening isn’t just a fun pastime. It’s also a heart-healthy form of exercise. According to Fitness Blender, depending on your age, weight, and metabolism, you can burn as many as 600 calories in an hour of gardening. Working outdoors also allows you to absorb vitamin D which can help improve your mood and immune system. The Centers for Disease Control says that two and a half hours of moderate exercise like gardening confers a number of other benefits. It reduces the risk for obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer and premature death.


3.It Benefits the Environment

Suburban farming isn’t just good for your personal health it’s also good for the health of Planet Earth. By planting a garden, you clean the air. Plants absorb CO2 and release oxygen. They also filter pollutants from the air we breathe. A garden also adds nutrients to the soil, thereby enriching it for later crops. Gardening also provides habitats for pollinators. Creatures like honey bees, butterflies, birds, and bats depend on flowering plants.

When you eat food that you grow near home, you don’t buy as much food from stores. The food we buy requires tremendous amounts of fuel to move it around the globe and even to get it home from the store. Plus, it usually comes in packaging, which may wind up in landfills for centuries to come. The more you grow close to home, the less pollution and waste you contribute.


4. It Teaches Compassion, Patience, and Science

Children can learn a lot from suburban farming. By caring for living things, whether plants or animals, they learn compassion. Waiting for something to grow from a seed to an edible snack or for a chicken to lay eggs takes patience. Of course, the entire experience serves as a lesson in biology. Children can learn to identify types of plants and understand concepts like photosynthesis. They learn to discuss food webs and interdependence in nature. Many children learn best in a hands-on environment complete with dirty hands. A suburban farm is a great place to get them started.


5. It Relaxes You

This article from Michigan State University describes how “gardening has also emerged in recent years as a scientifically proven stress reliever.” Gardening makes many people feel calm and connected with nature. Many people struggle to choose between peaceful rural living and the convenience of suburbia. Communities like Aberlin Springs give you the best of both worlds. Essentially this community enables you to live like your in a rural town while living in a suburban city. You own a portion of a farm and eat fresh seasonal produce all year round!

This community is the first “agri-community” in the Cincinnati area but this idea is taking off nationwide. All over the U.S. “agrihoods” are popping up in places like Davis, California, Phoenix, Arizona, and Boise, Idaho. A community like this is perfect for those who love the feeling of rural living. Rather than coming home from a long day of work and pulling into a neighborhood of identical houses you get to pull into a driveway surrounded by greenery and farm animals. It’s definitely a great way to start your evening or weekend.


Whether you’re considering growing a garden for yourself or to help your neighborhood, suburban farming can be a cheap and easy project. Not only will it improve your own health but it will also help strengthen the environment and your community.

IMAGE: Pixabay / CC0 Public Domain

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Growing and Learning

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Mercy Montessori is home to Cincinnati’s only farm-to-table and microeconomy learning program

(courtest of

The inaugural Farmessori program at Mercy Montessori encompasses a farm-to-table learning concept that empowers junior high students to be environmentally educated, economically savvy and conscious members of the global community. The newly renovated fifth floor at Mercy now houses an immaculate microeconomy classroom that comprises of a workspace for students to learn about gardening, food choices and how to run a shop.

The program aligns with the Erdkinder (German for “land children”) philosophy that was developed by Maria Montessori. The Farmessori is modeled to reflect Montessori’s vision, which includes student involvement in constructing a garden, growing their own food and using that food to create a business. The proceeds will then fund further projects and contribute to members within their greater community.

This summer, students, parents and alumni worked together to create a fenced-in garden space that consists of raised garden beds, rain barrels and a greenhouse. With the produce and herbs grown in their on-site garden, seventh and eighth grade students will create products such as homemade teas and smoothies to sell in their shop.

“There is so much power in growing your own food,” says Lisa Klus, assistant principal and director of the microeconomy program. “It gives students the foundation they need to be contributing members of society.”

Each junior high student is a part of a group, or “green team” where they manage different, integral parts of the program: the produce managers harvest vegetables such as spinach, peas, carrots, radishes, cilantro, kale and arugula; the tea managers grow lavender, chamomile, lemon balm, mint and spearmint; and the shop group is in charge of the microeconomy that is working to build a website, an order form, a budget and a business plan. Other student-led jobs include setting up rain barrels for watering, composting, creating an irrigation system and planting perennials.

“In creating this microcosm of society, we believe that students will see their worth from the responsibility and expectations that they take on through their work—on the land and in our shop,” says Klus.

The Ecolab play area, located in a wooded area behind the school, benefits the younger children at the Montessori. It includes a stage area and seating, a bird watching station, water tables, worm bins, a compost system and other eco-friendly equipment that junior high students and alumni built. Additionally, junior high students lead classes and share information about the Farmessori to younger students. This “passing down of responsibility” ensures the program will continue to run effectively after each class continues to the next grade.

“In watching them carry out this work, I can see them as adults. I can see them in their future careers. I can see them bringing people together for a common cause and giving back to society,” says Klus. “That vision is the belief in practice that Montessori pictured for the adolescent learner.”

The Farmessori program has expansion plans that include the integration of farm animals, beekeeping, an outdoor classroom, further development with products in their shop, and more partnerships with local community organizations.


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Groundbreaking & Progress

We officially broke ground at Aberlin Springs, the region’s first agricommunity, on Monday, December 11th, 2017. Check out the gallery below to see all of the progress made since then!

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Warm & Cozy Farm Living

Winter on the farm is peaceful. Enjoy a brisk winter stroll amongst the quiet and picturesque scenery. Winter photos below!

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Thanks For An Amazing Grand Opening!

View the photo gallery from our special day!
We had a blast! With 350+ people attending

and lots of Fun Fall festivities! Thank you all.

Aberlin SpringsThanks For An Amazing Grand Opening!
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