- Maryland-based MOM’s Organic Market has partnered with Richland Honey Bees in Virginia to launch BeeSA — or the Bee Supported Agriculture — program, which offers a queen bee and nucleus hive via MOM’s website, according to a company release. MOM’s customers can pick up their bees at the Alexandra, Herndon, Hampden and Rockville stores in late May, and they also can buy beekeeping equipment, including bee suits, smokers and hives at some brick-and-mortar stores.
- In the release, MOM’s founder and CEO Scott Nash said the initiative represents an effort to rebuild pollinator communities as part of the company’s purpose to protect and restore the environment. “Pollinators are being wiped out by the toxic pesticides applied to farms and lawns everywhere,” Nash said. “It’s important to protect our pollinators and to bring awareness about how we can make a difference.”
- Lynn White from Richland Honey Bees visited several MOM locations to answer questions about the program, and said in the release that her organization is “thrilled to be working alongside MOM’s.”
The loss of nearly half the U.S. bee population through colony collapse disorder has significant impacts on the environment, a worry to many players within the agriculture chain — including MOM’s, which sells natural and organic products in 18 stores mostly in East Coast states.
And MOM’s leaders certainly put their money where their mouths are when it comes to the environment. In addition to its retail business, MOM’s partners with, promotes and supports non-profit environmental groups such as the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, Smart on Pesticides Maryland and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. Further, while the store’s shelves are filled with products one would expect to see — certified organic produce; shade-grown and fair wage coffee; gluten-free foods and sustainable seafood — MOM’s also carries unexpected supermarket items. These include organic clothing, home-formulated cleaning and household products, and Naturepedic organic mattresses.
The store’s website also proudly states MOM’s does not sell water in plastic bottles or products marketed to children through licensed cartoon characters on packaging.
All of this shows MOM’s — and likely its customers — see the store as a place where buyers are also supporting a certain lifestyle — and are willing to pay more for sustainable, healthful and ethically manufactured products.
Although customers can purchase beekeeping equipment and supplies from the likes of Walmart or Home Depot, the MOM’s partnership appears to be a first for grocery stores. While such a program probably doesn’t make sense for the likes of traditional stores such as Wegmans or Publix, BeeSA could be a good fit for MOM’s. Customers making the special trip to this store — as opposed to those buying organic milk at their local grocery store — likely won’t see the beekeeping equipment as out of place at MOM's. By partnering with a local bee farm, MOM’s has more control over the bees it sells. Working with bee experts can help customers learn not only about beekeeping, but also how to install hives into their own backyards and work with bees.
What’s more, the MOM’s and Richland Honey Bees program comes at a time when there’s growing public interest in backyard beekeeping. The trend — boosted when former First Lady Michelle Obama installed a hive at the White House — led many cities to lift bans on urban beekeeping and created opportunities for beekeepers or sellers to reach new customers. Following the trend of backyard chickens, bee keeping likely appeals to those who want to be in touch with where their food comes from.
With beekeeping becoming increasingly popular, BeeSA seems like a smart move for MOM’s. Only time will tell if customers entering the store to buy organic fruit are interested in leaving with a beekeeping suit and an order of live bees.