For a variety of reasons, military veterans are seeking opportunities in beekeeping throughout the region. Alan Woods, a retired US Army veteran, master beekeeper, owner/operator of Woods Bee Co and member of the board of directors for the Washington State Beekeepers Association (WASBA), is passionate about building community through beekeeping. Beau Gromley; a combat veteran of both the US Marines and US Army, program manager at GRuB and member of the board of directors for the (WA state) Farmer Veteran Coalition is a beekeeper mentored by Alan and committed to helping veterans connect with nature, heal themselves, and become positive and engaged members of their communities. Woods Bees and GRuB have partnered to create a program which certifies and mentors veterans interested in becoming “backyard” and/or professional beekeepers in Washington state. As a member of the “hive”, veterans and their families have access to training sites throughout the region, tools and equipment, and a growing community of beekeepers. Currently we have apiary sites at GRuB’s Victory Farm in Lacey, WA; GRuB’s main farm in Olympia, WA, and Woods Bee Company in Centralia, WA. In the spring of 2022 we plan on opening our fourth apiary site at the Veterans Ecological Trades Collective (VETC) farm in Rochester, WA.
At the end of our five week (inaugural) training program this past summer, we certified 30 local “beginning beekeepers” (20 were veterans!) with the Washington State Beekeeping Association. We are offering our final certification course of the season this fall (Nov. 8 - Dec. 18) and have the capacity to certify up to 40 more beginning beekeepers!
It is our vision to have community apiaries operated by certified veteran beekeepers throughout the state. We have a broad network of community and regional partners, including the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA), who are committed to the holistic support and success of our military veterans and their families. Veterans leasing land at The Veterans Farm in Orting, are eligible for a free beehive commemorating their military service, once they have successfully completed WASBA’s Apprentice Beekeeper Course and have committed to the Journeyman Beekeeper certification.
Our veteran supported beekeeping program is part of a larger project underway in Washington State and throughout the region that supports pathways into agriculture for veterans through farm based training & education, business planning, employment assistance, referral and resource information, training space & land access, outreach, mentoring and mental health support.
As veterans we’re a family, a team. We understand that mentorship can mean different things at different times. We have a broad and resourceful network of partner organizations, agencies, business and individuals that are committed to your holistic success during and after your military service.