As urban farming and beekeeping became hot topics in recent years, more and more people are becoming aware of how important a role bees play in agriculture and ecological balance. This was not the case when John, the spotlight of today, first decided to start his business, San Francisco Honey & Pollen Company.
“It amazes me just how few people realize the important roles bees play in our everyday lives,” John says. “Bees are in danger of extinction. Without them, the agriculture we survive on would be greatly hurt.” Because of this belief, he started to teach people beekeeping in 2008 and has been doing so for almost a decade. Get ready to be fascinated by the buzzing world of bees and their communities; read John’s story and learn the secret behind his beehives, and how he grew his love of nature into a successful, family-run business.
- Hi John, can you introduce yourself and tell us about the classes that you offer through Verlocal?
- Cheers! My name is John McDonald, owner and instructor at San Francisco Honey & Pollen Company. We’re currently offering two classes through Verlocal: our Beginner and Advanced Beekeeping Classes. Our beginner class is a great introduction to the basics of backyard, urban beekeeping. We teach students all about bees and how important they are to our agriculture, the fundamentals of beekeeping, and even go into live working hives to view the bees at work. Students get to put on beekeeping suits and enjoy our own urban apiary; it really is a great time for all! Our advanced class is for those who have taken our beginner class or have a prior knowledge of beekeeping. In this class, we focus on honey spinning. We open up our hives, remove all the honeycomb/honey, spin the comb to remove honey, and then bottle it. If you’ve taken our beginner class, the advanced class is a must do, however, we only offer this class twice a year, usually in May and October.
- When did you first become interested/passionate in beekeeping?
- Well, I’m a General Contractor by trade, but I’ve enjoyed picking up various outdoor/nature hobbies over the years. In 2005, a good friend introduced me to backyard beekeeping. It was great, something that was pretty easy to take up and rewarded you with your own honey and knowing you were helping sustain the bee population was a plus! In 2006, I added a couple hives to my workshop and before I knew it I was adding more and more hives and getting hit up by friends asking how they could start their own hives. In 2008, I began teaching beekeeping classes, I love interacting with new people, teaching them something that I get so much enjoyment from, and something I find to be important. In 2012, I officially opened San Francisco Honey & Pollen Co. and began offering classes to the publically.
- What is the story that made you want to pursue your passion and become a host?
- When I first began offering classes to the public, it was difficult to reach people. We started off really slowly, but it was so important for me to be able to reach the locals of San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area. It amazes me how few people realize the important roles bees play in our everyday lives. Bees are in danger of extinction. Without them, the agriculture we survive on would be greatly hurt. Being a host on Verlocal allows me to offer a great deal to locals and pass along my knowledge and passion in the process.
- How would you describe the link between your classes and the community around you?
- We’re located in the Bayview District of San Francisco. It’s a very urban, industrialized neighborhood. Beekeeping pushed me to create an urban sanctuary. I’ve completely renovated my shop’s yard. It’s now a full garden and urban apiary. It looks great; it’s amazing to have so much green, fresh vegetables, and fresh fruits, in an otherwise concrete jungle. Neighbors get to come by and enjoy the fruits of our labors and a couple neighbors have decided to add hives to their yards. It’s really created a different aspect to our neighborhood.
- How long have you been living in the Bay Area? What would you recommend to someone who just moved to the city?
- I moved to San Francisco from New York in 1988, I love it here! My advice to someone who just moved here would be to enjoy this city and it’s surroundings to the fullest! Get off your couch and go out on the weekends. Find cool, new, interesting things to do. Get outdoors, and try beekeeping?!? I also think it’s important to support local small businesses; they are what makes this city so special. So, in other words, do what you love, love what you do, and help support those that are out here doing the same exact thing!
- Tell us about your favorite moment/ biggest achievement since you started teaching your classes.
- I think my biggest achievement has been growing this business large enough to make it a true family run business. The day I was able to employ both my daughter and niece to help run and instruct classes at San Francisco Honey & Pollen Co. was a great day!
- What are your goals for the future?
- My goals for the future are to continue growing the business. The larger we grow, the more people I reach. At this point, we’ve had over 2,000 students walk through our doors. Imagine if that number was 10,000, and 1-2% of those people walked away and began urban beekeeping. That would be at least 100 more hives in the Bay Area helping to sustain the local bee population, and that’s my goal!
- Any recommendations to someone who wants to pursue their passion for a career?
- My advice for anyone pursuing his or her passion as a career would be to never give up. Starting a career, whether or not it’s new to you, can be really difficult. You’ll always run into hurdles and people telling you you would be better off doing something else. But don’t give up. You will have to work hard, especially at first, but always keep that goal in sight. When you reach it, it’ll be worth it.
- What does Verlocal mean to you?
- Verlocal is a marketplace for people living in San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area to find awesome, one-of-a-kind activities. Get on there, and find something you’ve never imagined yourself doing, and do it! You will not regret it.
If you are interested in beekeeping and love to spend time with friends and family through unique experiences, or simply want to support a local business & urban farming, don’t forget to keep up with his latest classes by following him on Verlocal!
All photos by John McDonald
What do you want to ask John? Comment on our Facebook post before October 18 and one lucky commenter with the best question will receive a FREE beekeeping class taught by John and meet him in person!
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