EXPANDING BEEKEEPING AS A PROFITABLE AGRICULTURAL ENTERPRISE THROUGH EXTENSION EDUCATION
Sullivan, J., Agriculture Extension Agent, University of Florida IFAS Extension – Osceola County, Kissimmee, FL, 34744
Situation: The need for beekeeping education has become particularly relevant in recent years with rapidly growing interest in beekeeping and increased awareness of the decline of honey bees and their value as pollinators. Goal: Promote beekeeping as a profitable agricultural enterprise in Osceola County, Florida. Objectives: 1) Increase knowledge and application of Beekeeping Best Management Practices and regulations; 2) Increase the number of registered beekeepers in the county; 3) Provide support to new and established beekeepers. Methods: To accomplish these objectives, the Agent created and regularly taught a three-part educational series, established a beekeeping association, became a beekeeper, offered consultations, and educated the general public. Results: 528 aspiring beekeepers participated in educational programs (2012-present), increasing knowledge 24% through introductory programming. Local, state-registered beekeepers increased by 238% (N=44). Education participants who became beekeepers generated a combined estimate of $400,000 in honey sales (2013-2016). Conclusion: Extension education successfully supported beekeeping as a hobby and business, increasing beekeepers’ knowledge of regulations and responsible practices, and increasing the number of local beekeepers.