The University of Connecticut is in the midst of a sustainability project that is transforming the way students eat, and live, on campus. The focus is on locally grown food, and the newest local product is creating a buzz on campus.
Steven Anthony is an assistant manager for one of the Dining Halls at Uconn. He says employees are encouraged to find local food--vegetables and milk from local farmers, bread baked on campus, and even chickens raised in an on-campus coop.
Anthony's latest idea? Bees...lots of them.
Anthony got the school to invest four thousand dollars in one-hundred thousand bees and and beekeeping equipment.
"Are you known as the Bee Keeper now?"
â€œThe Bee guy! 'Thereâ€™s the bee guy.' Stephen Bee Anthony is one of the favorites that one of the employees always calls me."
Right now, UConn goes through about thirty-eight hundred pounds of honey a year, which costs about twenty thousand dollars. He hopes to cut costs by producing more than half on campus, but he says it's not just about saving money.
"After getting more educated about the bees, I just find that itâ€™s good for the whole university just having the bees here for pollination."
That helps the other fruits, vegetables, and flowers grow on campus. The hives are kept behind an old apple orchard, on land used by UConn's Department of Plant Sciences. Each hive contains ten thousand bees and one queen, busily working on some fifty frames separated by an eighth of an inch, exactly. That space allows for the frames to be removed without sticking together and without hurting the bees.
â€œSo you see, Iâ€™ll pull one out; see all the different movements going on? Thereâ€™s bees that have nothing to do except taking care of the Queen, thereâ€™s bees that do nothing except for go out and scout locations, then they come back and tell other bees where to go and forge. The foragers come back, and thereâ€™s bees that take the pollen off of them, and put it in the hive. So everybodyâ€™s got a job, and itâ€™s just amazing to me thatâ€¦ the chaos, thereâ€™s such organization here.â€
Denis Pierce is the director of Dining Services for UConn. He says the honey produced by these bees is only one part of the larger sustainability project.
It's not just the Farm to Fork. You know, While you're providing the service, how much water are you consuming? You know, when you have... at the end of the meal, and you have your refuge, what do you do with it, do you compost it? And so it's really the big picture."
UConn's "big picture" includes a student-grown vegetable garden and contests between dorms for water and electric conservation. In fact, Pierce says UConn is well ahead of other sustainable projects in the state. Campus dining services is already the largest consumer of Connecticut grown produce.