The Buzz on Something Sweet from Queens
Beekeeper harvests honey from a rooftop hive
Chase Emmons is buzzing around Queens spreading the word on an often-misjudged form of urban farming: beekeeping.
Emmons is the Chief Beekeeper and Director of Business Development for Brooklyn Grange, a rooftop farm in Long Island City.
After growing up in Greenwich Village where he still lives, Emmons went on to Ithaca College for a year, and left to become one of the original founders of the Princeton Review college preparation program.
He now has 10 beehives on his farm in Sunderland, Massachusetts, four hives at the Brooklyn Grange rooftop farm, and one on the roof of BoBo’s restaurant in Greenwich Village.
Emmons sells his Long Island City-made honey at fairs and farmer’s markets around New York City. For example, he hosted the Honey Festival on the Rockaway Beach boardwalk on Saturday, September 17.
His passion for bees started in 2002, when his friend, one of the founders of Burton snowboards, invited Emmons to Massachusetts to have a look at his beehives.
“My response was, ‘what’s wrong with you, stinging insects, are you nuts?’” Emmons said. However, he soon fell in love with the ways of the bee colony, which he said reminded him of the computers he built as a technology-nerd when he was growing up.
“The whole operating-of-a-colony was very much like a computer in a way,” Emmons said. “You kind of build this hive for these creatures that will just do all this work for you, and happily so.”
In addition to providing delicious honey to eat, beekeeping allows people to transcend cultures that date as far back as the previous millennium, he said. It also provides a socializing opportunity, as keepers get together in groups and clubs to discuss their honey-harvesting tactics. For example, Emmons is now a member of the Backwards Beekeepers club in New York City.
“I’ve made like 30 different friends that I would’ve never had any chance to meet let alone be friends with,” he said, “simply because of beekeeping in the city.”
New York City legalized beekeeping in May 2010, he said, and since then its popularity has skyrocketed. That is partially due to its profitability. New York City honey sells at between $20 and $40 a pound, making it Brooklyn Grange’s most profitable commodity. One hive can produce more than 50 pounds of honey in a season, Emmons said.
However, “the biggest impact [of beekeeping] is it just helps people to open their eyes to the whole food system, how the system works and what they’re putting in their mouths.
“I was that person,” he said, “who was completely shielded and separated, food just appeared in the supermarket and then appeared on my table.”
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