(Hive installation day, Spring 2021)
This past spring, the Jacobsen Hive Program installed 14 hives along Portland's southwest riverfront at Zidell Yards. Nestled under the Ross Island Bridge along a recently rewilded section of the Willamette River, this setting is already proving to be a miraculous refuge for honey bees. We have big dreams for what this urban apiary can become and are overjoyed to be sharing the inaugural harvest of our Portland Riverfront Raw Honey with you all. Here's more on why we chose this location and what is planned:
What is Zidell Yards?
Zidell Yards, or Zidell Shipyards, has a long, complex history on the Southwest Portland riverfront. Post-WWII, the property was home to an international ship and barge deconstructing and rebuilding plant. In 2011, in response to decades of contamination, it became the site of a major multiyear environmental remediation effort.
What is an apiary? Why put one here?
An apiary is a collection of bee hives in any given area, or a more fanciful way to say bee-yard or bee farm.
A major piece of the Zidell Yards remediation project involved planting over 10,000 native plants, including a 2016 planting of flowering natives on more than 30 acres of riverfront property. The natural resources within this rewilded site, such as abundant water, make it an obvious choice in supporting healthy bee colonies and for establishing this apiary. These flowering plants are what sustain the bees for most of the summer, while the river provides a place for the bees to drink and cool off on warm days.
(Catching a feral colony right along the riverfront last June!)
Bees are a regenerative force and support biodiversity. We feel the positive effects these pollinators bring to our city will be remarkable and lasting. Keeping bees near these recent plantings will help slowly increase plant life. It can be difficult to quantify the physical changes brought about by pollination, however, we know environments rich with pollinators create habitat for many beneficial species and improve soil health.
By placing an apiary in a more centralized and public space, we also hope to invite more members of our community to study bees just doing what they do. One of the goals of the Jacobsen Hive Program is to foster curiosity and shared support for critical pollinator populations. This site allows us to hopefully do just that through educational and observational opportunities.
In 2022, we plan to grow our apiary from 14 to 21 hives, host a spring planting of native flowering habitat, and use the apiary for more outreach. We held our first event last May with Global Works Community Fund (GWCF), hosting a cohort from their Our Naturehood program, which aims to introduce students to various environmental and sustainability initiatives happening right around the city.
(The coolest cohort, our May 2021 event with Global Works Community Fund)
"It was an opportunity unlike anything our students had done before–to stand amongst beehives in downtown Portland and learn about their importance in food systems and ecology," said Mark Bennett, GWCF Director. "Our students had no idea what bees could mean for the world around them, or the beauty of their social systems, and constantly referenced it as a highlight of their summer."
Building out this apiary and sharing our beekeeping philosophy within our community is a privilege, and we can't wait to see where the bees take us. Stay tuned for more!
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