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What makes a successful mentorship program???

2301 Views 31 Replies 18 Participants Last post by  joebeewhisperer
Greetings All,

First off, I've been to maybe 10-15 bee club meetings in my life, and did not learn through an organized mentorship, for better or worse.

In the last few days I've talked with several people from one of the larger clubs in TN about how to keep their mentorship program alive, what may need to change etc. As I understand it:
  1. people sign up for the program
  2. the club purchases the initial equipment (no idea whether this cost is recouped from mentees / proteges / students)
  3. club buys packages
  4. bees are kept in a central yard from Mar-Aug
  5. students (whatever they are called) take classes, attend meetings and have dedicated time in the central yard (either 1 on 1 or with the group?) where they receive hands-on training with their individual hive(s)
  6. bees are taken to their "forever" home in Aug, with perhaps some follow-up, as-needed support from mentors over time
At issue is having enough experienced people to mentor ~20 people over the course of this season (and beyond).

I'm usually looking for a way to innovate / streamline / modernize most practices, but I don't know enough about this to offer much in the way of suggestions. I'm personally evaluating whether bee clubs have any place in my life, but in the meantime I've volunteered for some website stuff, as I already have the skill set.

I thought about a helpdesk where student's calls, texts, or emails are switch-boarded to whichever mentor is "on-call" for a given time period. Also having a few Zoom meetings/classes during the process might help. I'm completely spit-balling at this point.

Most experienced beeks I know are running their own unofficial mentorship programs by fielding calls, texts, and such throughout the season. But a structured program is out of my wheelhouse.

I welcome any input. What worked, didn't work, etc.?

Thanks much,
Joe
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First of all I am no expert beekeeper however my definition of an expert is a master of the basics. A good mentor is that. Also a person can only help if they have enough resources, time, and have someone willing to pay there dues. I live a considerable distance from any bee clubs. But would help an experienced bee keeper with mundane tasks just too observe and absorb as the seasons pass. Hope too read and make my own mistakes but do my best caring for my bees. Just my thought. John
 

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These new beekeepers get a cushy, free start. (It's a pretty sweet situation and I'm glad they have the resources to do that.) So what's in it for the mentors?

How are your teachers "paid"? It doesn't have to be monetary at all, but consider what the mentors put into, and get out of, the program. They're realizing a cost/benefit of mentoring, weighing time, trouble, et cetera against the satisfaction they get out of mentoring. That could be personal satisfaction, making connections, fulfilling an obligation or free club membership, equipment discounts, and so on.
 

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These new beekeepers get a cushy, free start. (It's a pretty sweet situation and I'm glad they have the resources to do that.) So what's in it for the mentors?
my sediments exactually.
I would want the newbies to have skin in the game, IE cost of entry.
should be an initial "class/meeting" where questions are asked, do they have a place for the bees , is anyone in the family allergic, some talk of the work etc. IE talk the weak hands into folding.

then the mentors need something as well. I would suggest the newbee pay their our freight and the 200 bucks go to the mentors. bee keeping is not a free activity, starting it such can give the folks the wrong feel.

AND finally IMO we are not short bee keepers, so the coddling them to get them going is backwards, I would do it tough love instead.

call in help desk is a good idea.
mentor coming to the keepers place, I am busy and rather not spend the time and gass to go to a far yard, maybe put his/her new hive in my yard, they come over work their hive and 5 more to get more experience. I would likely forbid a new package in my yard and give a split, so several ways to start.

GG
 

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I share a lot of GG sentiments. I would have to see some signs that the would be beekeeper was used to getting their hands dirty and was not allergic to sweat. Just being enamored with bees would not cut it. I like the idea of having them come to you. It is easy to spend away too much time running to them to answer questions that a bit of research on their part would have answered.

Beekeeping is by no means simple or easy. Might as well sort out the triflers.
 

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That is quite a lot for a program to provide, I would say almost too much. As a few have already said, this is an extremely good deal for the mentee, and I would imagine a great cost to the club. You must have a lot of members, very high dues, and/or a nice set of benefactors!

Unless I am missing something, like the prospective mentee pays a few hundred bucks for the equipment, classes, and a mentorship period. I could see that working out well since purchasing equipment for the first time can be extremely daunting.

In my club we have a class (students pay for it), we tell them how to keep bees and what to purchase, we give them a field day at a local apiary, and they get enrolled in our mentorship program for 1 year. Our program is more of a service/help line where new Beeks are assigned a senior club member as close to them as possible and they act as someone who can answer calls/text about their bees as well as go out to the new apiaries to help with anything.

We make it extremely clear to anyone using this program that the mentor is NOT there to keep your bees for you. There is no compensation for the mentor, it is completely volunteer. I am a program mentor myself and honestly, it's one of my favorite things to do.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
First of all I am no expert beekeeper however my definition of an expert is a master of the basics. A good mentor is that.
Excellent definition! (y) :)
These new beekeepers get a cushy, free start. (It's a pretty sweet situation and I'm glad they have the resources to do that.) So what's in it for the mentors?
Great question! (y) :)
my sediments exactually.
I would want the newbies to have skin in the game, IE cost of entry.
should be an initial "class/meeting" where questions are asked, do they have a place for the bees , is anyone in the family allergic, some talk of the work etc. IE talk the weak hands into folding.

then the mentors need something as well. I would suggest the newbee pay their our freight and the 200 bucks go to the mentors. bee keeping is not a free activity, starting it such can give the folks the wrong feel.

AND finally IMO we are not short bee keepers, so the coddling them to get them going is backwards, I would do it tough love instead.

call in help desk is a good idea.
mentor coming to the keepers place, I am busy and rather not spend the time and gas to go to a far yard, maybe put his/her new hive in my yard, they come over work their hive and 5 more to get more experience. I would likely forbid a new package in my yard and give a split, so several ways to start.

GG
Good on all points. The "you come to my yard" being a nice touch.

I don't allow incoming bees or used equipment our yard either. New equipment comes in, bees go out.

I wouldn't have thought of gifting (or selling) a split in this formal context. I've had a few people come work for bees over the past few years. One kid comes and works and is thrilled to get just the experience. For the last 2 years I've sold him nucs at a crazy discount, and he's split, built his own boxes, and expanded from 1-2 to around 15 in 3 years. He works full-time and they raise some goats, rabbits, and chickens on the side. His wife already goes to markets to sell farm goods. He sold out of honey in no time this year. This is a beekeeper.

I share a lot of GG sentiments. I would have to see some signs that the would be beekeeper was used to getting their hands dirty and was not allergic to sweat. Just being enamored with bees would not cut it. I like the idea of having them come to you. It is easy to spend away too much time running to them to answer questions that a bit of research on their part would have answered.

Beekeeping is by no means simple or easy. Might as well sort out the triflers.
Preach. - I used a quote from this forum with each of the local folks I spoke with about this recently. Someone here had created a discussion from a sincere (though slightly entitled) perspective about finding a mentor, as if older folks were unwilling to help. The reply was something like, "When the number of nucs, hives, tanks of gas, etc you have given away goes over 100, come back and talk to me about mentoring. I don't have 100 hours over the next 3-4 years to find out you don't have what it takes to make a beekeeper." - <paraphrased>

I'm thinking it was perhaps you that said it.?. - Either way, I used it a lot over the past week.

Keep them coming! :D I think I'll point the folks back over here, rather than bullet this into a list. Hive mind collective tends to explore all facets. Much appreciated! :D
 

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This is controversial:

Before any new beekeeper starts a mentorship, they should purchase an OAV unit and Oxalic acid. EasyVap or similar unit.

A new beekeeper needs to start treating hives for mites, from the beginning. Then they can adjust over time.

I believe OAV is the easiest and most straight-foward treatment for a new beekeeper. Most difficult is to treat every 2-4 days sometime in July-August for 15-20 days.
 

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I keep seeing talks about "good mentor".
What about "good student"?

It seems this year I got a very good new student.
His attributes:
  • he really wants to do this
  • he is willing to drive one hour one way to my place (so to spend the time with me)
  • he insists on paying me for my time (even though I insist he does not - he already bought bees from me)
  • he is flexible and willing enough to catch me when it is working best for me - so he can drop by, and we work my bees for 3-4 hours together.
  • he failed at least once before he found me (he bought some import package bees and they promptly died of mites before the winter even started).
This is a gold standard of a student.
I am willing to do things for him.
(I am inclined to give him more bees for a nominal price or free - though I'd rather he learns to propagate his own - the next project).

So, yes - the good students will chase after a mentor.
But chasing after students?
Not here.

I suppose when I need to sell stuff, then I can pretend to offer mentorship (but this is about sales, not about mentorship).
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
This is controversial:

Before any new beekeeper starts a mentorship, they should purchase an OAV unit and Oxalic acid. EasyVap or similar unit.

A new beekeeper needs to start treating hives for mites, from the beginning. Then they can adjust over time.
I had this same discussion with a past president of this club yesterday, but framed a bit differently. I keep some TF stock just for breeding/observation. But I never tell anyone not to treat. You need a few years under your belt before taking on TF in any form. Too many factors need to be managed, and those skills obtained to do otherwise. IMO

The club may have a vaporizer for loan. I know they treat the hives on the central mentorship yard, and train as much. I remarked to the most recent past presidents a few months ago on my lack of attention when it comes to mite presentations. His answer was that he knew it could get old, but the #1 reason folks drop out was dying bees, and the #1 culprit there was mites.

I would make one exception, and that is if a newcomer is bound and determined to start out TF, they need to be spending a significant amount of time helping an established TF beekeeper. One who has a track record of several years, the more hives the better. I remember my own naivety when I got back into this. Didn't see mites, and packaged Italians rocked out surplus from day 1 until the 2nd winter, when they would perish. It often takes a while for unmanaged bees in a great environment to succumb, and with our isolation, only the few mites in the packages played into the equation.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I keep seeing talks about "good mentor".
What about "good student"?

It seems this year I got a very good new student.
His attributes:
  • he really wants to do this
  • he is willing to drive one hour one way to my place (so to spend the time with me)
  • he insists on paying me for my time (even though I insist he does not - he already bought bees from me)
  • he is flexible and willing enough to catch me when it is working best for me - so he can drop by, and we work my bees for 3-4 hours together.
  • he failed at least once before he found me (he bought some import package bees and they promptly died of mites before the winter even started).
This is a gold standard of a student.
I am willing to do things for him.
(I am inclined to give him more bees for a nominal price or free - though I'd rather he learns to propagate his own - the next project).

So, yes - the good students will chase after a mentor.
But chasing after students?
Not here.

I suppose when I need to sell stuff, then I can pretend to offer mentorship (but this is about sales, not about mentorship).
Good summary. (y) :cool:

I think we are seeing a pattern emerge on which most of us agree. I also thought about the sales end, sort of "buy a mentorship along with some bees". But it's hard enough to raise bees, and if we are paid in a single transaction for this I foresee blame, and an inordinate amount of time spent answering the questions that should have been researched through sources other than us.

I totally agree with your gold standard. I'm back to when I taught guitar (1980s). Whether lessons were done in-store or at home, the students revolved. Finally settled on those who traded out yard work for lessons. They wanted it, and they succeeded.
 

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Work stretches my patience and mental fortitude. I don’t have enough left to join a beeclub (at this time).

This year, I have helped two get started. One co-worker had a swarm arrive in one of his trees. I lent him a swarm box and gave him drawn frames to place in trap. After bees relocated from tree to trap and the queen started laying on frames, I did an OAV treatment.

A few days later we took them to his farm and transferred them to his new box. I lent him a feeder to help get them started.

I am not sure if he will keep them going. He has alot of other hobbies and duties. He will ask questions and when I answer, he is not ready to do all the work.

Another friend said he wanted to start next year. I told him, he will be better off having an iver-wintered colony. So, I grafted a few queen cells and made him a small split around the middle of August. After the queen was mated/laying, him and his son came and picked up the split. I gave him the split and he and his son are taking good care of it. I did an OAV treatment before he took the split. Next spring, I will teach them how to graft and I think they will do well.

I am willing to help others often. I just don’t think I am ready for involvement in a club venture or anything like that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
That is quite a lot for a program to provide, I would say almost too much. As a few have already said, this is an extremely good deal for the mentee, and I would imagine a great cost to the club. You must have a lot of members, very high dues, and/or a nice set of benefactors!

Unless I am missing something, like the prospective mentee pays a few hundred bucks for the equipment, classes, and a mentorship period. I could see that working out well since purchasing equipment for the first time can be extremely daunting.

In my club we have a class (students pay for it), we tell them how to keep bees and what to purchase, we give them a field day at a local apiary, and they get enrolled in our mentorship program for 1 year. Our program is more of a service/help line where new Beeks are assigned a senior club member as close to them as possible and they act as someone who can answer calls/text about their bees as well as go out to the new apiaries to help with anything.

We make it extremely clear to anyone using this program that the mentor is NOT there to keep your bees for you. There is no compensation for the mentor, it is completely volunteer. I am a program mentor myself and honestly, it's one of my favorite things to do.
Sorry I missed this as I was rounding up replies earlier. Thanks so much for the level of detail, and a positive experience. 👍🐝😃



To All - After some research, this spring I think the club sold complete double-deep 8-frame Lang (they looked treated), smoker, and hive tool, along with a 5-frame nuc as a start, for around $500. So it’s a mentorship package. Don’t know if it’s always been this way, but at least materially, the beginner pulls his or her weight.

I remember one person at a state meeting inquiring about grants for his club to buy boxes for beginners, and another person lamenting the many boxes rotting in backyards from folks who had them gifted from his club. At least I took it to mean they were gifted.

So the amount of time/money/expectations probably varies from club to club.
 

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I am in a bee club in Columbia, Mo. We meet at the Missouri University campus and are fortunate enough to have 3 board members who are Entomologists. This year we are reestablishing an Apiary on a Golf Course in town. One of the Entomologists students already keeps 2 colonies there. I think there is woodenware in storage for an additional 5 colonies. This club does not offer to start anyone with hives, but we do have a mentorship program that consists of a list of competent beekeepers. I believe that most who want to start contact people who may be close to them and work with them.

I have only been with this club for 1 year and there's more for me to learn about this program in the club, I personally have 1 student in the small town where I live that I mentor. We have been working together for 2 seasons now. She is a small woman, so can do some of the manual work with her. As a result, I charge her for my time. I also know of another beekeeper who will come to your site/yard and help you for a fee.

I am hoping that the club apiary will become an onsite learning program through the club, but we'll see.

This is how our club does the mentorship program.
 

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I was asked to mentor a guy who was supposed to be very local to me earlier this spring. I said sure, but he flaked out and never contacted me.

While the thought of the club buying a new person a hive that they can buy, sounds nice, you can spend $500 on a hive in the first year. Our club's account is maybe $2k, so that would be a big strain.

I'd be far more tempted to say, if you have someone in the club who has lots of hives and doesn't mind setting up a few in the corner of a field for the new person to come observe, that would probably work fine. If they wanted you to visit their location to help with their hive, that could work fine as well. Half an hour, every other weekend for a couple of months wouldn't be too bad.

I understand how people can perceive starting beekeeping as a huge hurdle to overcome. "There 60,000 bees all looking to sting me if i sneeze!" sort of line of thought. Knowledge wise, there is a learning curve, but also building confidence in yourself is a major part of this hobby.

Folks in our club hate when people mention YouTube, but honestly there is a lot of good information out there for setting up hives. I probably watched a couple dozen hours of bee videos before I got my hives. But then again, I tend to be a self starter who dives in head first and can teach myself.

Sorry if I rambled off into the weeds.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I am in a bee club in Columbia, Mo. We meet at the Missouri University campus and are fortunate enough to have 3 board members who are Entomologists. This year we are reestablishing an Apiary on a Golf Course in town. One of the Entomologists students already keeps 2 colonies there. I think there is woodenware in storage for an additional 5 colonies. This club does not offer to start anyone with hives, but we do have a mentorship program that consists of a list of competent beekeepers. I believe that most who want to start contact people who may be close to them and work with them.

I have only been with this club for 1 year and there's more for me to learn about this program in the club, I personally have 1 student in the small town where I live that I mentor. We have been working together for 2 seasons now. She is a small woman, so can do some of the manual work with her. As a result, I charge her for my time. I also know of another beekeeper who will come to your site/yard and help you for a fee.

I am hoping that the club apiary will become an onsite learning program through the club, but we'll see.

This is how our club does the mentorship program.
Excellent! Appreciate the details. Having entomologists involved sounds handy, if a bit out of reach of most clubs. :)

Like you, I haven't done much with this (or any) club, but I know they have been around for a long time and have done mentorship successfully before. I would imagine there a lot of beeks going to a fee system of some kind. I suggested to someone recently that he get a patreon page for that reason. Sort of subscription-based mentorship.

I was asked to mentor a guy who was supposed to be very local to me earlier this spring. I said sure, but he flaked out and never contacted me.

While the thought of the club buying a new person a hive that they can buy, sounds nice, you can spend $500 on a hive in the first year. Our club's account is maybe $2k, so that would be a big strain.

I'd be far more tempted to say, if you have someone in the club who has lots of hives and doesn't mind setting up a few in the corner of a field for the new person to come observe, that would probably work fine. If they wanted you to visit their location to help with their hive, that could work fine as well. Half an hour, every other weekend for a couple of months wouldn't be too bad.

I understand how people can perceive starting beekeeping as a huge hurdle to overcome. "There 60,000 bees all looking to sting me if i sneeze!" sort of line of thought. Knowledge wise, there is a learning curve, but also building confidence in yourself is a major part of this hobby.

Folks in our club hate when people mention YouTube, but honestly there is a lot of good information out there for setting up hives. I probably watched a couple dozen hours of bee videos before I got my hives. But then again, I tend to be a self starter who dives in head first and can teach myself.

Sorry if I rambled off into the weeds.
I understand. In selling nucs you will get people who are hot on the idea in Feb, but will ghost you in April. I don't take deposits and there is usually someone else waiting for them, so no big.

I need to check my initial post and reiterate. I found out students do indeed pay for bees/equipment.

I've traded bees for work a few times, or at least given or discounted bees to those who showed up to help. Putting an actual time constraint like you have is a good idea.

And yes, there are hurdles, .... lots of hurdles. :LOL:

I began watching bee videos after the family bought a hive setup for me for Christmas (2015 I think). I had a hive years ago and helped Dad occasionally, but didn't have a working knowledge of beek stuff. I could name each YT guy and what I learned primarily from that individual (I've done in other posts) in the past few years. I went to the 1st Hive Life, bought a ticket to the 2nd but didn't go (or ask for refund), bought a ticket this year and may not go,... just to pay homage for the time these guys put in. Don't watch many now, but I learned a ton from YouTube, and being in the middle of nowhere, it was the best option available. But I know what you mean. Folks have polarized around YT personalities. :LOL:

And I live in the rambling weeds, so don't sweat that.
 

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If I can join, the club in question has indeed had difficulty in the past retaining interest among students. One year we required them to read a lengthy PDF "Beekeeping in Tennessee" and then take an open book test prior to admission to the program. There were a few who obviously didn't try, they were not chosen for the mentorship. I don't recall the specifics, but I want to say retention was better than average that year. We do plan on testing this year prior to choosing participants in an effort to only take those serious about beekeeping.

In the past we have also given preference to those who attended short courses put on by other area clubs. We currently encourage those who express interest throughout the year to join the club in advance of the start of the mentorship program in January of each year.

Some challenges I see are the mentors are only lightly screened. While we might try to steer some potential mentors in another direction, the lack of willing mentors has put us in a position of only screening for a pulse. In the past, we have had excellent volunteer program directors whom we promptly burned out by using them year after year. The last couple of years we have lacked an experienced volunteer program director. Our immediate past president had a plan to develop a curriculum that would be followed by multiple volunteers, so that any one mentor could step in and lead a lesson, sharing the burden of leading the program. Unfotunately the curriculum has not been developed and he has had health issues get in the way of pursuing that idea.

I'm far from the brightest bulb in the box, Joe can talk about how to peel an apple and I will learn a great deal, he always brings out aspects of an issue I had not considered. I am very thankful he has agreed to delve into our issue!
 

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joebeewhisperer, I live 45 miles from my other bee club in St Charles, Mo. Big club with usually 125 people attending meetings. I have been a member since 2012 when I took a beginning beekeeper class. This club is on the outskirts of the St Louis metropolitan area. I was on the club advisory committee for 3 years. Our mentorship program was pretty loosely organized. If you wanted to help people start out, you put your name on the list and people who wanted and needed help would contact you. Usually this had a lot to do with your location as this club took in a 4-county area.

I live 60 miles from Columbia, Mo. Last year I joined this club, and I am also on the advisory board with them now. I go to Columbia a lot for shopping and health needs. This club is a lot less invested in sponsoring a mentor program. I think this may have to do with the Entomologists on the board who are teachers with the University. A lot of their speakers are either bigger beekeepers or other people at their level of expertise. Often, I am reluctant to enter in conversations/discussions with the group because of my lack of schooling, I only have a high school diploma. I also live in a small town, 323 people at the last count.

I just wanted to let you know about my past experience as you had an incorrect assumption about my club involvement. Sorry.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I'm far from the brightest bulb in the box, Joe can talk about how to peel an apple and I will learn a great deal, he always brings out aspects of an issue I had not considered. I am very thankful he has agreed to delve into our issue!
We have a mutual friend near Manchester (TN), who is ~75, maintains around 100 hives, buys and sells beek equipment by the trailer load from an old garage, and has likely forgotten more on beekeeping than I know.

I generally speak with him 2-3x a month. On the phone this amounts to 1 hour, in-person it’s usually at least 2. He often begins a statement with, “You tell me what you think about this. I started doing __ with my bees, and I think maybe it will bring __ outcome. What do you think?” He is genuinely trying to expand his knowledge by actually listening to others. He will then pass this along using the same technique

Whatever I’ve learned about beekeeping from him, I’ve learned a lot more about engagement and the process of learning.

I have seen you ask questions, and engage with people in a similar way. I think you sell yourself short with the light bulb analogy. You’ve been at this a good while. Might be time for the student to become the teacher.


I just wanted to let you know about my past experience as you had an incorrect assumption about my club involvement. Sorry.
That’s my bad Jim, not yours. Sometimes I skim, or have to read multiple times to understand.

So you’ve had a great deal of experience (a decade) with another club, but less with the most recent one.

I think the distance you mentioned has a great deal to do with things. We are an hour north of Chattanooga, closer to 2 hours from Nashville. So Chatt is our place to go for serious or specialized medical, and several other things. But I work in a different direction, so it’s a dedicated special trip.

As far as academic folks being intimidating, I totally get that as well. I worked for a university about 35 miles from home for several years. Like you, I only had HS, and found myself surrounded by folks with an alphabet of letters after their names. I was in a support position and I came to know a bunch of them on some level.

A few may have been working through their own complexes, and put on an air of superiority, but this was mostly when students were present. Some may have been afraid they couldn’t make it in the “real world”, as they had been students and gone straight into being professors. I’d say 95% were regular people who were the world’s expert on some pinpoint subject, but otherwise not condescending at all. It also helped to be in a support setting and realizing there were things they didn’t know.

Basically I learned they are just folks with a different background. Folks are just folks, and only those who are very insecure will make us feel stupid for asking questions. 😃
 

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I think the best way for someone to get started would be for them to volunteer to "work" with a beekeeper when they are working their bees. They can pay for the training with sweat equity. A good start if they are serious. The "trainee" should then purchase a nuc and maybe some used equipment from the beekeeper "trainer". One beekeeper could have a couple/ few "students" at a time and they would learn by doing and most beekeepers I know could use some labor......
 
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