CPCC culinary students learn about beekeeping, honey
Near Charlotte’s uptown skyline and the buzz of traffic on the John Belk Freeway, culinary students at Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) are learning firsthand about beekeeping and the production of honey.
Last March, CPCC’s Culinary Arts program established an apiary with two hives near the Van Every Culinary Arts Building, on the college’s Central Campus, just above the Little Sugar Creek Greenway walking trail. Since that time, the 80,000 or so honey bees have been busy, collecting nectar from the plants that bloom along the creek, across campus and around the adjacent neighborhoods. Last week, instructors in the Culinary Arts program harvested honey from the hives for the first time, taking in about 50 pounds.
Two CPCC culinary instructors, program chair Jim Bowen and Kimberly Stoll, both certified beekeepers, have taken the lead in developing the college’s apiary.
“I’ve been interested in the food supply/sustainability, food history and science for a long while,” Bowen explained. “Four years ago there was a little blurb in the Charlotte Observer about a ‘bee school,’ so I enrolled. As I learned more and more, I began to incorporate honey and honey tastings into our food science class as we discussed humanity’s first sweetener and antibiotic ointment. Knowing that we had a perfect location on campus for a few hives, our department decided to host a few bees here at CPCC.”
CPCC instructors will harvest honey just once a year and early enough in the year so the hives can continue to collect nectar and build up their honey reserves to survive through the winter. If both hives remain healthy, they could produce up to 250 pounds of honey in future years.
“In our food science class, we discuss sustainability, historic agricultural practices and changes in current agricultural methods,” Bowen said. “We also spend time on sugars, sugar composition and the changes that occur in sugars during cooking. Bees and honey have played an important role in each of these areas.
“We have beekeeping jackets, veils, gloves and pant straps, so we can have a number of students view the hives during the class and when we inspect the hives,” Bowen added.
Students also will use the honey in their cooking classes. Patrons of the college’s Greenway Restaurant will get to sample the honey as well. Honey will be included in some dishes and small jars will be placed on the tables to enjoy with the restaurant’s fresh-made biscuits.
Some Interesting Honey Bee Facts:
- In its lifetime, a bee will help produce approximately 1/12 teaspoon of honey. This means it takes the lifetime of approximately 9,000 bees to make a gallon of honey, and the bees might have flown a combined 50,000 miles to collect the nectar.
- Bees can fly out to a five-mile radius from their hive to collect nectar.
- Bees directly pollinate about one-third of our food supply.
- Bees are the only insect that produces food for human consumption.
For more information about CPCC’s Culinary Arts program, see www.cpcc.edu/hospitality-education/culinary-arts, or call 704.330.6721.