Do coal miners really love mining coal—and therefore, advocate to keep coal mines open? Or is it that they need the income that coal mining gives them to support themselves and their families? For most miners, the latter is the truth, but as more coal mines across the country shut down despite a certain president’s support for coal, more miners are losing their source of income. This is a sad truth that comes with transitioning away from fossil fuels, but it doesn’t have to have a sad ending.
Across the country, there are many initiatives aimed at helping coal miners find new work. In West Virginia, for instance, many displaced coal miners are finding work in a new trade: beekeeping. As a part of a program run by the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective, former coal miners in 17 different counties are being given the chance to learn the in’s and out’s of beekeeping in a five-week course. Once the new beekeeper has completed this course, he or she can become a partner in the beekeeping collective. The partnership offers training, mentorship, equipment, and bees for free or at a reduced cost.
Thus far, the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective successfully trained 35 beekeepers this past year and plans to train another 55 this spring. When it’s harvest time, the nonprofit will process, market, and distribute the honey for its beekeepers for free. That can result in a nice chunk of change. In 2018, the market value for a pound of honey was about $7.33. A single hive can produce 20 to 100 pounds of honey a year, which means a single productive hive could earn its owner over $700 a year. With multiple hives, a beekeeper has the potential to make thousands of dollars every year. (See this similar solutions-story about a Russian Town that turned to honeymaking.)
What makes this program especially good is that it does more than produce income for the beekeepers, it also provides nectar for bees, and, in turn, the bees pollinate these key natural habitats and create more plant diversity in local areas.