Chase Emmons has a dream to build New York City’s largest commercial apiary, comprised of roughly two million bees that are genetically suited to endure New York City’s diverse climate.
Emmons is chief beekeeper and director of business development at Brooklyn Grange, a rooftop farm that recently expanded from its Long Island City location to a space in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where the apiary will be kept.
The apiary will consist of 30 hives with roughly 50,000 bees per hive.
“Over the next two years we want to cross-breed bees that show themselves to be successful in the Yard and ultimately end up with a strain of bees that are really well-suited to the New York City environment,” Emmons said.
To fund the program, Emmons launched an online Kickstarter campaign, where he must raise $20,000 by Thursday, April 19, at 4 p.m. to receive the money pledged.
In return, Emmons said the apiary will have numerous benefits for New York City residents.
In addition to adding 50 pounds of honey per hive every season to the city’s local produce market, residents will be able to purchase their own genetically equipped Brooklyn Grange Bees, keep their own hives, and sell their own honey.
Local honey sells in the city for about $40 a pound, Emmons said.
Currently, city beekeepers purchase their bees from southern states. The bees are shipped in lunch-box sized containers through regular mail, which weakens them, at roughly $100 a box.
“There will be a new New York City local product, which can then be sold amongst New Yorkers,” Emmons said. “People can create their own little businesses with New York City bees.”
In addition to boosting the local economy, the apiary will be educational, with a pay-it-forward internship program the Grange launched in recent weeks.
In the program, interns will work with the bees until the season ends, near the end of September, when they will receive a batch of their own bees in exchange for committing to training new interns the next summer.
Twelve interns were chosen for this summer’s program, with a leftover waiting list of 50 from about 175 original applicants.
To give those on the waiting list a chance to participate, the Grange will host group-activity days throughout the summer.
“We want to involve as many of them as we can,” Emmons said.
The project also has an artistic element, as it is common to decorate hives so bees can recognize their homes.
“Bees navigate very visually like we do,” Emmons explained. “They can drift between hives and you don’t necessarily want that.”
To help the bees, the Grange is working with Visionaire magazine to bring in professional artists, including local urbanites and others flying in from as far as Brazil, to decorate the hives.
To celebrate, Visionaire will also host a black tie event at the Grange later in the summer, Emmons said.
For more information on the Grange, visit Brooklyngrangefarm.com, or to donate visit the Kickstarter page .