15-year-old beekeeper wins Bayer Young Beekeeper Award

By Julia John

Reisdorf poses for a picture in front of his hives in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. ©Carol Oliva

Jake Reisdorf has a sweet life for a high school freshman. After school, the Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, resident walks downtown to tend to Carmel Honey Company, a business he grew out of an elementary school project, which now has nearly 125 hives across California and Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

“When I started getting into bees, I found them cool, how they were able to survive in their own colony,” said Reisdorf.

Their survival is very much on his mind. Reisdorf doesn’t just raise bees. He’s also committed to conserving them, through public outreach and contributing to bee research and education efforts.

“I spread the word about why we need them and to not be like, bees just sting and make a little honey,” he said. “They do a lot more. They pollinate one out of every three bites of food we eat, everything from apples to zucchinis.”

Reisdorf received the 2017 Bayer Bee Care Young Beekeeper Award for his work with his Jake Gives Back Program. Through the program, Reisdorf donates a percentage of proceeds from each jar of honey sold at his store to honey bee research, including efforts to investigate solutions to diseases threatening these pollinators. He gives out seed packets from the Bayer Bee Care Program to encourage people to plant forage that supports pollinators. Reisdorf also talks at local clubs, schools and other organizations about the vital role honey bees play in agricultural and ecological systems.

With his $1,000 award, Reisdorf plans to establish an interactive “Pollinator World” featuring exhibits that raise awareness about the significance of bees, butterflies and bats.

In February, Reisdorf traveled to Anaheim, California, to speak at the 2018 AgVocacy Forum sponsored by Bayer, which convened leaders in various fields to discuss sustainable food production.

“My family and I were so excited to see this side of the industry and talk about bees and honey,” he said.

Reisdorf fell into beekeeping doing a fifth-grade research presentation on web design, which inspired him to create a website about bees.

“I did my project on bees, and everyone was like, ‘Do you sell honey’?” he said. “At this point, I thought, I can make money off this. I can do it bigger than a lemonade stand. I started keeping bees. My parents said, ‘You’ve got to do it right,’ so I started going to talks and learning more about bees and honey.”

Reisdorf’s business now provides raw honey from varietals along the coast, including sage, orange blossom and wildflowers. He recently passed the first stage of the California Master Beekeeper Program at the University of California, Davis, a certification program consisting of hands-on courses teaching the science of beekeeping.

“My favorite part about being a beekeeper is seeing, every time you open the hive, a snapshot of what happens in the hive,” Reisdorf said. “Coming back from a successful day of keeping bees is a good feeling. I’m riding out this bee thing as long as it goes.”

This year, as the first-ever youth judge for the Bayer Young Beekeeper Award, he’ll help select his successor to the award that honors the next generation of beekeeping. Candidates from 12 to 18 years old are invited to apply for the second annual Bayer Young Beekeeper Award between now and May 15.

Reisdorf inspects his bees in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. ©Carmel Honey Company

Reisdorf gives an annual Carmel Honey Company honey bee education talk at Earthbound Farm Stand in Carmel Valley, California. ©Carmel Honey Company

Honey and other goods are available for purchase at Reisdorf’s retail store at Carmel Plaza in California. ©Carmel Honey Company

Bayer Bee Care is a Leading Sponsor of TWS.

Julia John is a science writer at The Wildlife Society. Contact her at jjohn@wildlife.org with any questions or comments about her article.

Read more of Julia's articles here.