Timothy Jackson: Finding the Light, not Blight: Turning Vacant Lots into Bee Farms
Timothy Jackson and Nicole Lindsey started Detroit Hives because they wanted to “find ways to bring communities together.” It all started with an article on the copious amounts of vacant lots in Detroit and a bad cold and cough.
In December 2016, Timothy had a bad cough and cold, tried various home remedies and all kinds of medications, but suffered from that cough for two months. A visit to a local convenience store and recommendation from someone working there led Timothy to discover the power of local, raw honey.
“For honey to do the trick, I thought what else could it do for me?” says Timothy. From the article on vacant lots to local, raw honey significantly helping end his longstanding cough, he and his girlfriend Nicole decided they wanted to get into their own honey production and use the plethora of vacant lots in the neighborhood to get it off the ground.
Detroit Hives now has 35 beehives in 9 locations in vacant lots and near community gardens. They’ve become bee ambassadors with the Honeybee Conservancy, based out of New York. They use their apiary to educate inner-city youth about bees and have mentored over 2,000 kids so far.
“We wanted to find ways to bring community together but also wanted to attract people to this neighborhood to see something special beyond the blight they usually see,” says Timothy. And since their story went viral, including a short documentary by Spruce Tone Films, Timothy and Nicole have inspired many other people of color to take on similar missions, not only locally but nationally and internationally (in Kenya and Ghana) as well.
“A lot of times people need to see something to know that it’s possible,” says Timothy. And, “we really are having fun.”
He and Nicole incorporate everything from their backgrounds into their beekeeping – advertising, photography, fraternity and sorority acknowledgment. “We embody everything we love and do in beekeeping,” says Timothy. And what they’re doing shows the community that science is involved, but so is art and creativity. They’re showing folks that this “doesn’t have to be done with a researcher with 300 years of experience.”
Education is a pivotal component of what Detroit Hives provides and they also work with local universities, including educational research with University of Detroit Mercy, and they’re working to help shape policy as well.
“We don’t always have the opportunity to interact with nature in these urban environments,” says Timothy, but Detroit Hives is helping make that interaction more possible and more diverse in a state like Michigan which “is not the most diverse state for people of color in beekeeping.”
Timothy stressed the importance of supporting community gardens to help provide food security for the community.
Detroit has vacant lots in the thousands – blight and eyesores is what most people see, says Timothy, but turning these lots into bee farms is helping boost native bee populations and other pollinators. A boon to much of this unattended land is that it’s chemical pesticide-free and some areas abound with a “variety and diversity of native plants, including clover, dandelion, and chicory.”
These lots that many would pass by without a second glance – “the areas people are overlooking and looking down upon are our goldmine,” says Timothy. Honey bees are a conduit to speaking on larger issues, including “breaking race barriers,” he says. Honey bees are “the gateway drug to learning about other bugs, other people and gaining an appreciation for all living things.”
- Timothy Jackson and Nicole Lindsey © Timothy Jackson is licensed under a All Rights Reserved license
- Timothy Jackson teaching about bees to young schoolchildren © Timothy Jackson is licensed under a All Rights Reserved license