To Bee or Not to Bee — CCD and Vegan Honey
It is National Pollinator Week, created to raise awareness of and appreciation for bees and other pollinators that play a vital role in our ecosystem. No bees, no food. In honor of National Pollinator Week, here’s an updated post which originally ran onJune 23, 2014.
“Growing up, I was told bees were sacred,” says Katie Sanchez. “There’s a balance, and we are here to cherish that gift.” Sanchez, a beekeeper’s daughter, took the message to heart. She’s the creator of Bee Free Honee, honey’s plant-based twin. Made with apples and lemon juice, it has honey’s same sweetness, slightly tart finish, golden glow and viscosity. It just doesn’t come from bees.
The bees, as Sanchez sees it, have more than enough to contend with — their very survival. And ours. The bees would probably get along fine without us. They always have. They’ve been around for 50 million years. It’s only within the past 15 years there have been serious signs of trouble. Bees have been dying off or abandoning their hives — their homes — in number. We don’t yet have an answer, we just have a name for it — Colony Collapse Disorder.
Sanchez first started hearing about Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD in 1999, the same year her son Agustin was born — prematurely — weighing just over a pound. She worried about her son, she worried about the bees, she worried about the future for all of us. Bees are the key from everything from biodiversity to having enough to eat., or as Sanchez puts it, “The essence of life is through pollinators.”Growing up, I was told bees were sacred, says Katie Sanchez. There’s a balance, and we are here to cherish that gift. Click To Tweet
Trained as a pastry chef and based in Minnesota, Sanchez began talking to local bee keepers. Their hives were disappearing. But the way they were keeping bees was nothing like the holistic beekeeping practices she’d learned from her father. “Nothing about the bee life is natural anymore. They clip the wings of the queen so she can’t fly, can’t leave. They have structured the bee world so it completely suits the human needs for that commodity of honey,” says Sanchez. “The bees are the treasures, not the honey.”
Farming practices have also changed — for the most part, not for the better. Experts link CCD to GMOs, climate change, and most recently, the neonicitoids in pesticides. It may not be any one thing but a weird admixture of all of it, and it all stems from human interference.
Identifying the problem is not the same as solving it. You can’t just blame the government, and get mad and end there. We all have a role we need to partake in.” For Sanchez, that means providing an alternative. Bee Free Honee is a happy accident, the result of an apple jelly recipe that didn’t gel. It gelled Sanchez’s hopes of saving the bees, though, by providing a sweet alternative. Yes, she’s making and selling something, but protecting the bees — and us — “is not separate from my business.”
Bee Free Honee’s recent “Shark Tank” moment helped business, but also helped drive public awareness of our food system, the role we play in it and its own role in our personal and global well-being. Sanchez went meatless after starting the company and “after my son was born, I became hyper-aware of nutrition. We’re feeding the human body,” she says. “I don’t take it lightly.”
Agustin is now 17 and the older brother to Emma, 13. He’s autistic and faces certain challenges. We all do. We cannot live without the bees.
Sanchez is not a bee keeper per se, she just wants to keep bees alive and pollinating — for everyone’s sake. “I would only think of it as a failure if I didn’t try.”