By: Gene Brandi, of Gene Brandi Apiaries, and founding Board Member of Project Apis m.
I remember it well when Christi Heintz and Dan Cummings approached me with the idea of establishing a nonprofit organization which could fund honey bee research. This was in 2006 at the Windmill Inn Hotel, Tucson, Arizona where we were meeting with scientists from the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center. I thought establishing such an organization was a great idea which was sorely needed given all the problems with which beekeepers were dealing and I agreed to become a member of the Board of this new organization which would be known as Project Apis m.
The original concept of Project Apis m. was to fund research for beekeepers by having beekeepers and almond growers jointly contribute funds to establish and maintain this new organization. I especially appreciated the fact that the PAm Board would be able to fund research relatively quickly rather than only once per year as with many other honey bee research funding sources. This would potentially allow researchers to deal with emerging issues much more quickly than in the past.
Christi volunteered to be the Executive Director and she initially worked for very little pay. She set up an office at her home and worked from there for the first few years. She promoted PAm tirelessly to beekeepers and almond growers who rely on a supply of strong, healthy bee hives to pollinate their orchards every year. She attended meetings and conventions throughout the country as she endeavored to garner support which could help ensure the success of PAm.
As a result of Christi’s vision, hard work, and fearlessness, Project Apis m. grew significantly from its meager beginnings with the help of new funding sources from corporate donors such as Costco.
Upon Christi’s retirement, Danielle Downey assumed the job of PAm Executive Director and has done an excellent job. Danielle and the PAm Board of Directors have continued to expand and improve the organization.
The fact that Project Apis m. has invested more than $10 million in honey bee research is a phenomenal milestone given the humble beginnings of the organization a mere 16 years ago.
From practical research on a plethora of honey bee issues to the Seeds for Bees forage program, and more, PAm continues to serve the beekeeping industry and helps insure that the almond industry, as well as others in the agricultural community which benefit from honey bee pollination, will continue to have an adequate supply of strong, healthy honey bee colonies to pollinate their crops.
Congratulations to the Project Apis m. staff and Board of Directors for their continuing efforts to improve and maintain the health of honey bees and the beekeeping industry.