College Wants To Train Next Generation Of Beekeepers

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The beekeeping program at Fairview College could be resurrected and fly again.

The one-year certificate program, the only one of its kind in Canada, ran from 1980 to 1999, usually attracting 10 to 16 students.

Interest in renewing the beekeeping program developed when Fairview College became a satellite campus of Grande Prairie Regional College in July 2009 and both campuses started looking at options for programming in agriculture.

“The program was reasonably subscribed when it was suspended, so it wasn’t the lack of students that was an issue,” said Rik Vandekerkhove, dean of trades, agriculture and environment at Fairview College

There are however, numerous challenges to running the program again, said Cheryl King, program developer with Grande Prairie Regional College. King and Vandekerkhove attended the recent Alberta Beekeepers Commission meeting in Edmonton to gauge interest in reopening the program.

“The current reality in advanced education is that there isn’t a dime for program initiatives and program development so that makes us have to be much more proactive in figuring out how to do this,” said King.

“Currently we don’t have anyone working within the college who has the expertise. So the two challenges are; find money for the program startup and find the right person to lead that.”

Resuming in a year

King hopes to have a contractor identified and hired by December 2010, and have the program up and running by January 2012. King said the program will need a full-time instructor/co-ordinator and a secondary technician/support person. The program team is searching for someone with bee experience, who can review the former curriculum, add new materials to it, and help implement the startup of the program.

The beekeeping program has an entrepreneurship and a business development program, as well as a labour development program, King said. The original program attracted numerous students from overseas who wanted to learn beekeeping skills. The program had a strong international component, and instructors travelled abroad to give instruction in other countries such as Bhutan and the Philippines, said Vandekerkhove. It also involved a one-month field trip to California which provided students with an introduction to queen rearing.

Vandekerkhove said he does not know why the program was shut down, but suspects the problem was a lack of funds.

Beekeepers who participated in focus groups in February 2010 reacted favourably to the idea of relaunching the program. The new program is expected to contain more of a focus on entrepreneurship and succession rather than providing labour, said Vandekerkhove. He expects that the program will also provide other educational opportunities for more established beekeepers in the region.

About the author

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Alexis Kienlen

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, Alexis is also the author of two collections of poetry, a biography, and a novel called "Mad Cow."

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