2024 President's Message

Presented by Doug Partridge, President

at the Worcester County Beekeepers Association Annual Business Meeting

January 5, 2024

Knights of Columbus Hall, Leicester, MA

 

The Worcester County Beekeepers Association is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.  The main focus of our organization is providing education to beekeepers of all experience levels. We have huge influence throughout New England, and a lot of this is because of what Ken Warchol has done with big-name speaker conferences that we run twice a year.

This year we also supported EAS (Eastern Apiculture Society). EAS held its annual conference here in Massachusetts, and it may not be here again for many years. We have a tremendous amount of people who come from out of state to study at the EAS.

Our big achievement of the year is our new website, which has been a long time in the making, and there have been a lot of people who have really contributed to put it into place:  Dave Lewcon, Dave Notaro, Cindy and Anne Lenault, Bill Blocher, and Ron Davis have all been of help in creating the format for the website. Currently our wonderful Webmaster, Kaitlyn Segur, is helping us iron out all the wrinkles that happen when you start out with a new thing. Kudos to all, and particularly to Kaitlyn.

Our Bee School has been running now for 83 years. Our Vice President Anne Lenault has been running our bee school as the Bee School Director for many years. During 2020 when Covid-19 suddenly made in-person school impossible, Anne took time off work and converted our Bee School from live-in-person to virtual, and that change has had an amazing effect. Last year we had over 250 students in our bee school. Also, our bee school costs only $49, and that includes a 1-year membership to our club. Many other bee schools charge from $175 or $200 all the way up to $350. We are now educating way more than Worcester County.  Last year we had a student from Idaho and another from France attend our bee school. Anne runs the bee school on Zoom eight Thursday nights, starting on February 29th in 2024. Students have an entire week to see the lesson if they missed the live class before the next one comes up. We are very grateful for Anne’s leadership as Bee School Director.

Ken Warchol has affected our club in many ways, and one of the greatest is Ken’s personal contacts that have enabled him to bring in big-name speakers to our bi-annual meetings. Coming in March are Dr. Tom Seeley, who retired recently, and Dr. Marla Spivak, who is soon to retire. Second, Ken’s leadership at monthly meetings and as we open hives has been wonderful. Doing raffle gifts at all of our meetings is also Ken’s idea, and again we are very grateful for his vision.

In the last five years Ken has been talking about finding ways to expand active participation in our club and to bring in more people. By looking at our by-laws, this year I was able to appoint two Directors-At-Large to become titled Directors — so Dave Lewcon moved up to Publications Director, and Cindy Lenault moved up to Membership Director. That left two spaces in our six Directors-At-Large positions open, so Mary Neeley and Bill Blocher were voted in by the Board. We also now have a new Vice President, Russ Holden; and a new Treasurer, Christoph Leu; and a new Secretary, Maggie Chinappi. So we have “new blood” coming into the club and club leadership.

At the Spencer Fair, Jim Kieras and Cindy Lenault have been huge in creating the Spencer Fair event, and our re-designed booth this year was amazing. We had new banners, a monitor displaying numerous slides, a photo contest, and Cindy and Anne created gift bags, which really enhanced our sales. We sold a lot more honey this year, and with Ron Davis’s help with our new credit card system (Stripe), enabling customers to purchase items with their credit cards. For example, we sold a lot more 2-lb. jars of honey than in the past. Also, we had many more volunteers at the Spencer Fair than ever before. Grateful thanks to both Cindy and Jim for all their work.

The sudden resignation of our Treasurer, Angela Hogue, who did a wonderful job and who served for many years in many different positions, was a significant loss to our Club. I’m sorry she couldn’t be here tonight. Ron Davis took over as interim Treasurer, with his experience being a treasurer for a statewide football program. He worked through all the different financial responsibilities over the last several months, which created a huge amount of work for him. Secondly, Ron has participated in filming instructional videos for the bee club, and his presence, contributions, wisdom, and experiences at our Board meetings have been tremendous assets to the Club. Kudos and thanks to Ron Davis.

Our Honey Jar Program was reinstated this past year after a year off. We had many disappointed members who couldn’t get jars in 2022, and they learned that jar sellers were marking up prices at least double our previous costs. In 2023 our members achieved huge savings with the costs of their honey jars. John Hedley spent months of effort creating the 2023 honey jar program. He spent an amazing amount of time developing the spreadsheets and managing the process of getting the honey jars in, and he did a great job. We brought in some unexpected funds from the honey jars (partially because the manufacturer gave us misinformation and we actually got them in at a lower price than expected). Those funds were really helpful to our budget because it helped offset expensive items like our bi-annual Speakers conferences.

Cindy and Anne Lenault participated in sorting out the caps for our honey jar program and spent dozens of nights counting caps.

The third big asset to our honey jar program is the generosity of Ken’s former student, Peter Bedigian.  Peter owns the factory in Whitinsville, and he opened up two trucking bays for us to use. We did the fastest and most organized honey jar distribution that has ever happened in the history of WCBA.

Thanks to Ken, Cindy and Anne, John Hedley and the several other volunteers who helped!

 

New accomplishments in 2023:

We were able to record our speakers for the first time at the October Speakers event. This allowed people who were not there in person to purchase for a small fee the ability to watch those lectures. This has opened up a new income stream for us and a way to serve a much larger portion of our membership. Last year we had over 1,700 total members, and we had over 300 attendees at the March Speakers event. Our video and audio master is Scott Herbert, who has been a member for many years, and his technology is an invaluable contribution.

This year we also expanded our Insurance Program. Last year we realized we had no bee sting insurance at our outdoor hive opening events. This year we put in sting insurance and also food insurance at our potluck dinners. I now have several proposals for insurance to cover the club itself, the officers, and the directors. The Board will be voting on this soon. We lost this type of coverage over Covid. (Update: this additional coverage was approved at the January 2024 board meeting).

Our outstanding MDAR program – Dr. Kim Skyrm now has four full-time bee inspectors, which will make a tremendous improvement in getting your hives inspected. Last year we had a few AFB infections, but we learned that most of it came from old equipment. If anyone is interested in selling old equipment, that equipment needs to be inspected by MDAR before it can be sold — even old frames can carry infectious AFB spores.

Dr. Kim Skyrm is in the process of setting up a proposed (it’s not ready yet) Irradiation Program like we had several years ago. Many beekeepers now have plastic frames, foundations, and hives; and these are not supposed to be burned in an open pit – by Massachusetts law, they are supposed to be incinerated. This year we are hoping that we can get the Irradiation Program in place, and the cost estimates I have seen are very reasonable. If your equipment had AFB, you should be able to pack up that equipment and get it irradiated when the program opens. Thank you to Peter Hoffman, who has been very effective at initiating this program.

This year we raised annual membership fees from $15 to $25 and Bee School to $49, which includes a one-year membership to the club. Different ways we fund-raise for the club are very important because we benefit New England beekeepers by hosting our meetings and our bi-annual educational conferences. The bi-annual Speakers conferences cost thousands of dollars every year, and fund-raising helps offset the costs of those conferences which promote our primary goal of beekeepers’ education.

 

Happy Beekeeping!

Your President,

 

Doug Partridge

 
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