Mikayla Marie Ockels, a student at Sussex Tech, is receiving a $1,000 Supervised Agricultural Experience grant funded through a joint effort between the National FFA Organization and Monsanto. Five $1,000 grants are being awarded to students who designed projects promoting the sustainability of bee colonies.
Administered by the National FFA SAE Grant Program, the competition is designed for students to learn by doing. Grant recipients develop their projects via one of four methods: entrepreneurship, internship, research-based experimentation, or job placement research.
Ockels' project plan is to expand her beekeeping operation by one hive each year for the next five years. This will allow her to increase her business marketing honey and other bee-related products, such as beeswax. With help from the grant, she will be able to harvest approximately 350 pounds of honey in the next five years.
“With this grant, I am planning to purchase materials that will allow me to profit off of all aspects of the bee products,” said Ockels. “I want to be a part of the effort to save this declining species, which is why I chose to start this SAE. I am passionate about my operation, and I strive to expand and improve it no matter what.”
A variety of factors may be contributing to the widespread decline in honey bee populations, including parasites, disease, and poor nutrition, according to a 2013 USDA and EPA report on honey bee health. The report suggests the key to increasing bee colony populations is research on genetic diversity, which will be spurred by improved collaboration and information sharing. As agricultural institutions, both the National FFA Organization and Monsanto have a vested interest in helping honey bee colonies thrive.
“Honey bees play a vital role in the process of providing a natural variety of nutritious food,” said Jerry Hayes, Honey Bee Health lead at Monsanto. “These SAEs have allowed students who are interested in honey bee health work to provide viable solutions to preserve the species’ role in agriculture.”
The National FFA Organization is a national youth organization of 579,678 student members as part of 7,570 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. For more information, visit www.FFA.org, or check on Facebook, Twitter and the official National FFA Organization blog.
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