Natural History | Bleader

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Nestled in Family Farmed Expo's Saturday celebrity chef demos, 140 vendors, and 16 workshops is an 11 AM workshop, “How to Raise Bees for Fun and Profit," that’s moderated by Mindful Metropolis magazine’s Richard McGuiness with a panel that includes Bronwyn Weaver of Heritage Prairie Farm and City Provisions' Cleetus Friedman, who keeps a hive at Bronwyn’s aviary and has hosted a farm dinner bringing guests into the honey-harvesting experience. The third panelist is Michael Thompson, featured in Michael Lenehan’s 1977 Reader cover story “The Essence of Beeing.” The article, at more than 20,000 words, was long enough to become a book, and did—a gorgeous handset book designed by Reader cofounder and the paper's original art director, Robert McCamant.

In 1977 Michael Thompson was a young punk. Literally. A year after the beekeeping story he would attend the grand opening of Chicago’s punk disco La Mere Vipere along with his roommate and a friend who just happened to be organizing the event. That night, he says, the sounds of Blondie changed his life. That self-made Chicago punk scene of the 70s, mixed with a little 60s idealism, also taught him "we knew the world would have to change or we would destroy it."

Chicago Honey Co-op

The Chicago Honey Co-op

Thompson and a group of beekeepers later founded the not-for-profit Chicago Honey Coop, where he's now the farm manager. The co-op's products can be found at farmers markets, stores, restaurants, and online. The co-op is offering two beekeeping classes in May.

Thompson's also training students enrolled in the University of Illinois's Master Gardener program in beekeeping at the Museum of Science and Industry’s Smart Home, which has some top-of-the-line hives at the museum's temporary outdoor exhibit.

Additional Chicago urban beekeeping links:

Garfield Park Conservatory offers a beekeeping class.

Donna Oppolo's Pilsen-based Carpenter Street Beeyard

Bee-related events:

Mindful Metropolis’s Green Metropolis Fair, April 16, 4626 N. Knox, 10 AM-4 PM, will include a screening of the 2009 documentary “Vanishing of the Bees”, which documents the mysterious bee Colony Collapse Disorder.

Also on Saturday, April 16, at 3 PM, The Talking Farm will be a co-presenter at The Talking Pictures Festival at Block Cinema on Northwestern University's Evanston campus. They'll be showing The Colony, another documentary about how beekeepers are coping with Colony Collapse Disorder.

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