Heroes to Hives Helping Veterans Heal
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Heroes to Hives, an innovative program offered by Michigan State University Extension, is helping veterans serve their country in a different way — by protecting honeybees. In exchange, the work serves as therapy for combat vets suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.
With six sites across the state, the program trains veterans to become the next generation of beekeepers. Their new skills help them save honeybee populations and promote food security.
Heroes to Hives is the largest program of its kind in the country, with nearly 300 veterans and their dependents participating. Through free instruction, mentorship and support, veterans can work through the mental health effects of combat, as well as the challenges of transitioning from military to civilian life.
Adam Ingrao, a fourth-generation Army veteran and MSU Extension agricultural entomologist, founded the program in 2015.
“Leaving the military is not an easy thing,” says Ingrao. “I was one of those individuals who struggled with opioid abuse and beekeeping was the first thing that allowed me to kind of recover from some of those challenges of my own transition.”
Equipped with a firm foundation in beekeeping and a long-term personal and professional support network, graduates of Heroes to Hives look forward to opportunities for small business ownership, employment in commercial beekeeping operations and prospects for diversifying farm income.
While the program has seen great success for participants, it’s also making strides in protecting pollinators, something Ingrao would like to see expand. “We would like to see this in every single state supporting veterans to really help contribute to the health and well-being of honeybees and pollinators in general across the United States.”