Kentucky Mountain Dreams

A Story For Change In Eastern Kentucky Coal Country

The library at the Lotts Creek Community School is buzzing with excitement as a half-dozen grade schoolers struggle into full-body protective “wee bee” suits. As they labor with zippers and wrestle with veils, a visitor lowers herself into a pint-size chair in their midst.

“My name is Tammy Horn,” she says, “but you can just call me the Bee Lady.”[1]

You never know where an inspiring story will show up. This one comes from The Chronicle.

The Chronicle of Higher Education is the No. 1 source of news, information, and jobs for college and university faculty members and administrators.

The Bee Lady has a “Mountain Dream” of her own. Her dream involves the coal industry of Kentucky and West Virginia. Her dream includes honey bees. She would like to combine the two and improve the lives of her Appalachian neighbors.

Tammy Horn would like to see the coal industry reforest their sites with beekeeping in mind. She envisions a “honey corridor” on the 33,000 acres of surface mined Appalachia to start with. She would like to see training for hundreds of local area residents in beekeeping, once common in these mountains. It was the coming of the modern supermarket and the availability of processed sweeteners that led to the decline in mountain hives. One of her visions has local beekeepers breeding an Appalachian strain of honeybees that would be resistant to the problems that are threatening honeybees around the country.

So far her dream has produced three test “bayards”, bee yards, on reclaimed mines owned by International Coal Group. Her request that they alter their reforestation to “include trees, shrubs, and flowers that pollinators prefer”, has led to a boon for both her and the coal company. As the article quotes Don Gibson, International Coal Group’s director of permitting and regulatory affairs as saying it really doesn’t cost much to make the change in planting policy and the results are worth it to the company.

“People wouldn’t drive five miles to see a reclaimed surface-mine site, but they’ll come 1,000 miles to see a bee yard,” he says. Over the last two years, more than 250 people have toured the three International Coal sites that house the bee project, giving the company the opportunity to talk to visitors about modern-day mining and reclamation methods. “If the region can see the economic promise going forward,” Mr. Gibson says, “it will be a win for everyone involved.”

This is one effort I want to keep on my radar so expect more stories on this in the future. There is much more to this story though, so follow the link and read on…

[1] In Appalachia, a Researcher Makes Honey From Coal – Faculty – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Tammy Horn has written a book on beekeeping…Bees in America: How the Honey Bee Shaped a Nation

WV Public Radio Story About Tammy Horn ~ MP3