Fairfield Ledger

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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 22, 2018

Bees find country home

By Jon Gilrain, Ledger correspondent | Jun 25, 2018
Photo by: JON GILRAIN/Ledger photo Beekeepers Rod Crater, left, and Lynn Sausville get ready to work with the bees on Jeffrey Hedquist’s farm.

A chance meeting at a Fairfield City Council meeting led three area residents to find a home for bees.

When one resident wanted to keep bees within the city limits, the city council was reluctant, but another resident in attendance had an answer.

Rod Crater recently petitioned the council for permission to have a bee colony at his residence in Fairfield, which abuts O.B. Nelson Park.

The council was not enthusiastic about the idea, and asked Crater to check with his neighbors and report back at a later date.

Jeffrey Hedquist, who was attending the meeting on other business, saw the council’s hesitation and thought he had an answer to Crater’s dilemma.

“You have to get permission to do some things in the city limits. Some of the council were OK with it and some were a little bit skeptical,” Hedquist said. “It was not an overwhelming-support kind of thing. So I grabbed [Crater] and said ‘Hey, I’ve got a farm with 145 acres. If you want a place to put bees, let’s do it.’”

Prairie Song Farms is about 5 miles north of Fairfield just off Highway 1. The large yard is green and lush with many shade trees. In addition to the Hedquist home, there is a guest house for the students and visitors working on projects at the farm and a number of out-buildings serving different functions.

“We’ve had students here since 2006. We’ve had several generations of students who have lived and worked here and are now off teaching permaculture and [Community Supported Agriculture],” Hedquist said. “One guy is now running an organic farm in New Jersey. Prairie Song Farms has been a place to experiment and learn. That’s been our thing.”

Hedquist pulls fresh mulberries from a tree on the path to where the bees are kept. There are many such trees and the fruit is plentiful which adds to the feeling of being in a pastoral wonderland. The bees are set back in a meadow on the edge of 20 acres of restored Iowa prairie which is in full-flower.

“This place is continually blessed with different people and Rodney has certainly been a great addition to this. He brings a great energy and knowledge about doing this. Prairie Song Farm’s whole mission is about outreach, to see how many people we can pull in to get interested in doing stuff here,” explained Hedquist.

Two box-style beehives with slot openings face the prairie. Out of the openings the bees fly out at a much faster rate than even the busiest airport. A number of bees seem to patrol around the hives, but most shoot out of the hives and into the prairie to browse the many plants and flowers.

Crater moved to Fairfield several years ago after seeing Oprah Winfrey’s television special on the town. He had already invested in the necessary equipment to raise bees, and lacked only a good spot for it, which he’s found.

“I grew up on a ‘Mother-Earth’ style farm in northern Iowa,” Crater said. “My job in the summer was taking care of a 5-acre garden and some bees. I have a garden at home now, but I haven’t had bees since around 1977 when I was on my parents’ farm.”

Assisting Crater with bee-keeping duties is Maharishi University of Management graduate and New York native Lynn Sausville, another Prairie Song Farms alumni and bee enthusiast.

“I’ve wanted to have bees for a long time, but I’ve never been set up to do it and this is the perfect space,” said Sausville.

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