Louisville, Greenup teens win national beekeeping honors

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Two Kentucky students have been named among the nation’s top beekeepers.

And the honor comes just in time to wrap up National Honey Month.

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Keith Griffith III and Emma Stevens have been named by Bayer as this year’s Blue Ribbon Beekeeper Award first and second place winners.

Griffith, a 13-year-old from Louisville, won first place, and Stevens, a 16-year-old from Greenup, won second place.

As the first- and second-place winners, Keith and Emma will receive $3,000 and $2,000, respectively, to put towards their beekeeping endeavors or school tuition.

A panel of five industry experts chose the winners from a pool representing 14 states based on the applicants’ demonstrated commitment to promoting honey bee and pollinator health in their schools and communities, as well as their dedication to continued learning and service within the field.

The judging panel for the 2020 Blue Ribbon Beekeeper Award included:

  • Joan Gunter, president, American Beekeeping Federation
  • Aimee Hood, regulatory and scientific engagement lead, Crop Science, a division of Bayer
  • Brandon Hopkins, Ph.D., assistant research professor, apiary and laboratory manager, Washington State University
  • Grace Kunkel, communications coordinator, Project Apis m.
  • Jake Reisdorf, first-ever Young Beekeeper Award winner and 2019 Blue Ribbon Beekeeper Award recipient; CEO, Carmel Honey Company

Each of the 2020 Blue Ribbon Beekeepers impressed the judges with their creative and impactful projects to benefit pollinators and further community education, including:

  • Keith Griffith III, 13, of Louisville, Ky.

Keith has been working as a beekeeper with his uncle since he was 11. What started as a therapeutic outlet soon became more than just a hobby; it’s also enabled him to start a business, Beeing2gether, where he sells honey, branded merchandise and a book he published in 2019, “Honey Bees and Beekeeping: A Mental Health Miracle.” Since writing his book, Keith has been featured on local Louisville television shows to raise awareness about the importance of honey bees and how beekeeping can provide an outlet for those suffering from mental illness. In the future, Keith hopes to expand his business and build a rooftop apiary where he can provide hands-on educational experiences for students and community members looking to learn more about beekeeping.

  • Emma Stevens, 16, of Greenup, Ky.

Emma is deeply committed to educating her community about the importance of pollinators. Through her high school agriculture department, she volunteers with local elementary school junior bee clubs to teach younger students about beekeeping. Emma serves as her high school’s Future Farmers of America (FFA) vice president, where she provides educational information to local farmers and other community members on the impacts of honey bees. In the future, Emma hopes to start a bee club at her high school, conduct a three-day junior bee camp for students in second through sixth grades, and organize a STEM Day for her district’s four elementary schools, with local high school students leading hands-on science, technology, engineering and math activities. 

  • Lydia Cox, 17, of Charleston, S.C.

A fourth-generation beekeeper, Lydia has been keeping bees since she was 7 years old and works with her family to sell honey as a way to raise money for college. Outside of the family business, Lydia volunteers with local community groups to help preserve environmental resources and teach younger children about pollinators and local ecosystems. She has since become an intern with the Charleston Parks Conservancy, where she’s piloted a citizen science program through the iNaturalist platform (helping to expand these projects to more than 25 city parks). Lydia is currently designing an urban pollinator garden near one of the conservancy’s community gardens at the conservancy, and will include pathways, seating, educational signage and pollinator-attractant plants for hummingbirds, butterflies and honey bees.

Applicants were required to submit answers to two essay questions and provide a professional reference from a mentor involved in their project, such as a beekeeper or apiarist, community or agricultural organization leader, grower, teacher, school official or member of another relevant organization. As a testament to the quality of this year’s entries, the judges also selected three applicants as honorable mentions for their exceptional commitment to pollinator health: Andie Funk, 16, of Jacksonville, N.C.; Jessie Cline, 18, of Cleveland, N.C.; and Rebekah Hope Watts, 15, of Rankin, Ill.