Jamie Sansone
Aquinas College
Major: Sustainable Business

Jamie will share her experiences creating the Aquinas beekeeping club and educating the community about the importance of honey bees and their current vulnerabilities.

Time would quickly buzz by during the bright afternoons spent alone in the garden. My hands and knees were habitually in the humus-rich soil. These occasions alone with Mother Nature uncovered a secret of unknown intelligence, self-awareness, and inspiration.

This past spring and summer I researched, observed, and recorded characteristics of native plant species and gardens. With the assistance of mentors, I learned how to design and maintain both a native home landscape and a separate vegetable garden.

The garden was organic, wholesome, and flourishing with a variety of greens, root vegetables, berries, herbs, and more. The long hours spent in the garden were mutually rewarding. Cultivating food for friends and myself ignited a new perspective on food culture.

As a 21-year-old woman living far away from any family, self-reliance and empowerment arose intuitively. Commuting only by bike, I’d invite pals with vehicles to the garden to help transport crops. Together we’d harvest and distribute produce to others nearby.

One day in July, I listened carefully to a buzzing in my right ear; it was calling for attention, “Zzamie, Zzamie …”

That tiny message inspired me and lingered in my ear that evening while cooking my fresh garden meal. After sundown, I explored the Internet for local professional beekeepers in Michigan. I reconnected with Grand Valley University’s apiarian, Anne Fauvel. Before I knew it we were suited up with a smoker in hand, identifying larvae, busy worker bees, drones, and the queen bee herself.

My garden, your food, and many of nature’s creatures would not be possible without the tiny buzzing honeybee or Apis mellifera. For millions of years honeybees have helped us to successfully pollinate 80 percent of our food crops along with flowers and trees. How does such a small insect endure to work infinitely to support her hive, the environment, animals, and human beings? How many humans end a workday feeling as if they’ve benefited the environment, the community, the job or even themselves? I consider the honeybee a role model for the human race.

My goal became to start a student organization and build an apiary at Aquinas College that would encourage education and community involvement. In the fall of 2013, I founded Aquinas Keeping Bees Club. The mission is to integrate awareness regarding the value of and our reliance upon honeybees. This will include a field-based education opportunity for Aquinas and local communities.

My compassion and dedication have been contagious to club members. I’ve reached out to many expert beekeepers for guidance and support. I regularly attend beekeeping workshops, write for blogs, research, and promote the honeybee. I am applying for a grant to secure beekeeping club equipment.

I believe that those within a community have a powerful influence to create change. My calling is to reach out and educate individuals and surrounding communities including grade schools, local farmers, businesses, and eateries. As an active community member and yoga teacher, my ultimate goal is to inspire optimistic change among all people and environments.

I encourage others to be open-minded and to experience new opportunities in order to find where they glow and how to fill the empty spaces with meaningful growth. These new insights relate to how one can understand, live and validate sustainability. Sustainability must begin with a willingness to surrender to the ethics and values we possess. In exchange will come a greater common good that is worth more than just a position, power, or wealth.

Today, I’m known as the “yoga bee girl” on campus and in the community. This moniker has encouraged me to dive deeper into the honey and initiate my own research. This summer I will be undertaking a research project at Aquinas with one professor. We will explore the connections between beekeeping and sustainable business. I hope to present this research at conferences I have volunteered for in the past.

Sometimes you just need to sit down and get your hands dirty to inspire others to live sustainably. I found my tools in the garden and now I am learning how to use and share my wisdom with others.