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If you’d told Rosa Aragon two years ago that bees would change her life, she probably wouldn’t have believed you. A single mom, working two jobs, with two kids – both with special needs, the sweet life of bees and beekeeping helped Aragon realize that if these little creatures can survive, she could, too.
Rosa and five other women found the bees through Urban Ventures or ‘Siempre Padres,’ a faith-based non-profit offering assistance to underserved families in south Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The women call themselves ‘Reinas de Miel,’ or Honey Queens, and they work to maintain the hives on a farm in Lakeville, as part of a program to get low-income women involved in beekeeping. The women work part-time at $15 per hour to supervise the bees and learn the craft of making honey.
Susana Espinosa, Urban Ventures vice president of Latino outreach, connected the women to University of Minnesota’s Bee Squad. The women took a class at the university in either beekeeping or agriculture, and learned the skills they needed for part-time jobs on the farm.
“Every time we worked with the bees, I go home thinking that learning about bees has to be implemented at an early age. This was confirmed to me the day my 5 year old came to help us with the bees. She’s wasn’t scared. She was very kind and careful with them, and very curious to learn more,” Dolores Montes, one of the Reinas, told Fox News Latino.
The women talk a lot about what they learned from the bees and are thrilled to have recently turned their honey collection into a new opportunity in the kitchen.
During winter, the bees aren’t producing honey, they’re spending their time clustering together, trying to stay warm. So, the women are using their honey to produce new products. They’re learning to cook with honey, even producing a honey salsa, muffins, granola, and tacos.
“Becoming a part of the Reinas has improved my relationship with my kids. We cook at the Urban Ventures kitchen, baking desserts, and I take home samples to my children. I’m proving to them and myself that I can do more than just clean houses,” Aragon says. “My kids don’t communicate very well, but I’m sure they’re proud of me.”
The women plan on selling the honey at Urban Ventures farmers market, and continuing their advocating for themselves and the bees.
“I don’t think people understand the risk we have if we do not take care of bees. I hope one day we can go around in our community; churches, schools, markets or even parts and teach children and adults about the importance of respecting bees and even gardening bee-friendly flowers that help the bees,” Montes says.
The program is designed as an incubator for women to mentor other women.
“The women we choose to be a part of the program have strength in entrepreneurship and a desire to help others. These women are examples in leadership despite the hardships they deal with on a daily basis,” Espinosa says.