UTM beekeepers living the sweet life

By Brandy Cochran

Special to The Press

Natural sweetener, face cleanser, sore throat ailment, burn treatment and allergy cure: only one substance known to man can do all these things, and humans don’t even have to produce it —honey.

As beekeeping reached popularity among county residents with the large growth of Weakley County Beekeepers Association; it was only a matter of time until the honey craze reached UT Martin as well.

Mike Pierce of the agricultural department at UTM started his beekeeping project on campus about four years ago, allowing for his students to get hands-on experience with keeping bees, collecting honey and packaging the final product in order to create extra profit for the department itself.

Once the UTM bookstore started selling their locally-sourced clover honey, Pierce knew he had created something big.

He and his students, quite frankly, have had a hard time keeping up with the public demand.

Before they were selling honey off the shelves, the only beekeeping on campus was done by the Beekeepers Association, who, when confronted by Pierce about his expansion idea, gracefully gifted their existing hives to Pierce’s program, along with the management and upkeep as a learning experience.

This has opened doors for Pierce to share his knowledge with the community by speaking at local events, inspiring future enthusiasts and teaching students about the importance of increasing the bee population in order to maintain Tennessee’s beautiful landscape.

“Like wine, the taste and color of honey changes every year dependent on what the bees have been harvesting on,” is just some of the intermediate knowledge Pierce shared with The Press.

Right now, it is hibernation season for the bee population, but Pierce plans on having up to 40 hives active on campus by the spring along with a growing population of interested students and volunteers to work them.

With all the support the program has been receiving from Chancellor Dr. Keith Carver and other UT Martin directors, Pierce sees the program eventually growing into a class on campus.

For now, though, he and his beekeepers-in-training will focus on delivering clover honey to all who crave the sweet stuff in town.

If locally-sourced and harvested honey makes your taste buds tingle, stop by the Skyhawk bookstore located on the first floor of the Boling Student Center and pick up a jar of UTM Honey.

The differences between the benefits of store-bought honey and honey that literally comes from your backyard will change the way anyone thinks about this sweet, succulent substance.

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