Mass. Department of Agriculture donates honey to The Food Bank

Photos: MDAR Apiary Program

When Kim Skyrm, Chief Apiary Inspector and Apiary Program Coordinator for the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), contacted The Food Bank recently to let us know that he and Deputy Commissioner Ashley Randle would be stopping by our warehouse facilities to donate four cases of honey, staff members were grateful but perplexed.

“We’re really familiar with MDAR and the work that they do,” says Brandie Taggart, Food Procurement Coordinator at The Food Bank, “but we had no idea that they maintained beehives!”

Left to right: Andrew Morehouse, Exec. Dir. The Food Bank, Deputy Commissioner Ashley Randle, MDAR and Kim Skyrm, Chief Apiary Inspector, MDAR

According to Skyrm, MDAR keeps colonies of Western honey bees at two state apiaries maintained by the UMass Agricultural Learning Center Farm in Amherst and Essex Agricultural and Technical School in Danvers. And while the department is not in the business of beekeeping as a money-making venture, they do maintain hives for research. Bee pollination is critical for crop health which, in turn, provides healthy food, employment opportunities, and economic growth in Massachusetts.

“Over 45% of agricultural commodities in our state rely on our rich diversity of pollinators for crop pollination,” Skyrm says.

Despite recent health and environmental challenges for honey bee populations in the United States, MDAR’s colonies are healthy and have produced 1,361 pounds of honey since 2016.

“Healthy bees produce surplus honey. We had excess honey that was in need of a new home.”

So department staff decided to donate this year’s surplus to a nonprofit that would put it to good use. They chose The Food Bank after a group of their employees had a positive experience volunteering in our warehouse last year.

“I was so impressed and humbled by your impact,” Skyrm recalls, “I knew this was the best place to distribute our sweet contribution to the community.”

MDAR plans to donate honey to one of the state’s four food banks annually, ensuring that each organization receives high-quality honey that it can then distribute. Our organization will present bottles to individuals who attend free nutrition workshops, led by our nutrition team and held in senior centers and community centers throughout western Massachusetts.

“MDAR’s generous donation was a pleasant surprise,” Brandie Taggart states. “We hope that people who attend these workshops will enjoy their complementary gift of high-quality honey, thanks to the commonwealth!”