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Isabella Wakefield, 21, worksspecializes in the safe and humane live removal of honeybee colonies. Courtesy photo
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Jano’s Garden: Celebrating a young ‘steward of the earth’

Isabella Wakefield is a beekeeper. At 21, this blue-eyed, blond-haired beauty is not the typical millennial but an active caretaker of the earth.

She lives with her family in Vista on a small piece of property with a large vegetable garden and carefully tended beehives.

“My mom introduced me to beekeeping, but I have always been interested in vegetable gardens since I grew up in Nebraska,” she said. “We had land and lived on a lake, so I was always outside doing something!”

NATURE DEFICIT DISORDER

Years ago, at an American Horticultural Society youth gardening conference, I had the pleasure of hearing Richard Louv speak. Louv is the author of “Last Child in the Woods,” and has written extensively about what he calls “nature deficit disorder.”

He recalls: “One evening when my boys were younger, Matthew, then ten, looked at me from across a restaurant table and said quite seriously, ‘Dad, how come it was more fun when you were a kid?’ I asked what he meant, and he replied, ‘Well, you’re always talking about your woods and tree houses, and how you used to ride that horse down near the swamp.’ ”

Louv continues: “My son was right. Americans around my age, baby boomers or older, enjoyed a kind of free, natural play that seems, in the era of cell phones, instant messaging, and Nintendo, like a quaint artifact. A kid today can likely tell you about the Amazon rain forest — but not about the last time he or she explored the woods in solitude, or lay in a field listening to the wind and watching the clouds move.”

KEEPER OF THE BEES

When I met the young beekeeper Isabella, she was working her day-job as a barista at Baba Coffee on State Street. I was overjoyed to find a candidate for what I like to call the “Young Farmers” segment of my column.

She was sharing some of the honey she had recently harvested from her hives, and I asked if I could hear more about her beekeeping experiences.

She went on to tell me about her training and work with Bee Leaf USA, a local company that specializes in the safe and humane live removal of honeybee colonies that are discovered in adverse locations, without pesticides or harmful chemicals.

Bee Leaf owner Travis Wolfe described Bella as “an advocate for the bees and a steward of the earth.” The company trains its employees to rescue and remove colonies located in attics, walls, irrigation boxes and underground.

According to Wolfe, “The process is complicated as well as dangerous as we transport the entire colony to our sanctuary. The colonies are placed in bee boxes where they are cared for and cultivated for honey.”

Not only do the bees provide us with honey, but the beekeepers are becoming stewards in preventing bee decline. “Bee decline has many causes including decreasing crop diversity, poor beekeeping practices and loss of habitat. The use of pesticides weaken the bees’ immune system and can kill them,” according to a 2019 US Department of Agriculture assessment.

EXPLORING THE OUTDOORS

As I write about new beekeeper friend, I am heartened to know that there are still young people who prefer to be outdoors instead of glued to their computers in their rooms all day. Since many families will be home-schooling this year I would like to recommend getting outdoors as much as possible.

Planting a small vegetable garden in pots, or visiting some of the local nature preserves, beaches and trails in North County can not only enliven your child’s senses, but also inspire them to appreciate the natural world around them.

The Agua Hedionda Lagoon has acres of trails and lagoon access for families to explore, with a complete schedule at [email protected] or by calling 760-804-1969. I can also recommend an online course for families taught by environmentalists at Hawk Circle Wilderness Center in New York that provides 13 weeks of nature-based learning and hands-on activities.

This online course is available from www.hawkcircle.com.

Please feel free to contact me at [email protected] if you have any suggestions about a special Young Farmer you might know, or recommendations for nature preserves or parks that might inspire young families.

Jano Nightingale is a horticulturist, and former Director of the Cornell Master Gardener Program in Cooperstown, New York. She lives in Vista and loves to go fishing with her son, Josh. She works on community gardens in North County and can be reached at [email protected]

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