On April 30th, I drove back from Berthoud in the cold afternoon, parked our little company car in the mud and snow at Harvest Farm, and popped the trunk to unload about 50,000 honeybees into their new homes. In five months, we hope to have honey from these hives. One year I harvested 20 gallons. The year of the High Park fires, with most of the flowers dried up and withering in the heat, I harvested only two gallons. So, only time will tell what the season will bring.
Welcoming new bees to our farm is a practice of hope. Bees are incredible creatures, I can talk for hours about all the fascinating aspects of their lives. They’re democratic in their decision-making even though they have a queen. Their alarm pheromone smells like banana runts. (It’s true, look it up). Honey found in King Tut’s tomb is still edible. But, my favorite aspect of the honeybee’s life is its abundance. Like very few other creatures, bees work so hard producing their unique product that they provide an abundance to be harvested. It is the abundance built into the community of bees that gives me hope on the bitter cold day I introduce them to Harvest Farm, another community of abundance and hope.
Harvest Farm is a refuge for men struggling to make sense of life and recover from a time of self-destruction and disappointment. A vast majority need substance abuse counseling, some need to connect with fulfilling employment, some simply need a place to heal and re-orient after being homeless. We are also a working farm which provides us with lots of space and some incredible examples for describing the work our men do during their year-long stay, like the honeybee hive.
It takes as much of a community approach to work on staff at Harvest Farm as it does to succeed in its program. As individuals, we can’t help our men do what they have to do on our own. It often feels a bit like a beehive to be honest. There can be four or five staff in a room with one program participant where we are confronting, supporting, guiding and talking through all the messiness and complexity of their life. Because we need to rely on the community approach so much, it can be unpredictable. Humans are fallible, inconsistent, forgetful and have a whole host of unique weaknesses. At our best, we all are pulling in the same direction and the energy hums through our work. Other times, we struggle to understand one another, we disagree, withdraw, blame and get discouraged.
Yet, this is why the icon of the beehive is so important. A single honeybee is amazing and complex, but the abundance of the beehive is the accumulation of tens of thousands of bees at work. There will be dark times of fragmentation and isolation in all our lives. The beehive is an icon of the promise of abundance. If we can redouble our efforts to engage in community, we invite others to see that God has created abundance, not out of the work of one spectacular person, but out of the faithful and dogged work of many fallible individuals striving together.
The harvest is worth it.