PUBLIC PROFILE: Sarah Red-Laird, Bee Girl
When Sarah Red-Laird was a little girl she could be found collecting honeycombs from her aunt’s farm and holding bees on the playground to impress the other kids. Since then her love for earth’s pollinators and their honey has grown along with her knowledge of how to preserve and protect them. In 2011 Laird Founded the Bee Girl organization with the hope of spreading awareness of pollinators and educating people about the momentous effects they have on our environment. Not only is she the founder and Executive Director of Bee Girl, Sarah is also the US ambassador of the International Bee Research Association BEEWORLD Project, the Kids and Bees Director for the American Beekeeping Federation, a New York Bee Sanctuary Advisory Board Member, and a Regional Representative for the Southern Oregon Beekeeper’s Association.
Rogue Valley Messenger: What was your inspiration for starting the Bee Girl organization?
Sarah Red-Laird: I fell in love with bees as a three year-old who loved honey and didn’t mind getting stung. I dutifully followed the beekeeper around my aunt’s farm in Wolf Creek, Oregon, and anxiously awaited honey filled combs, fresh from the hive. While at the University of Montana, I chose beekeeping for my Davidson Honors College research thesis. I spent my time in the field with researcher Scott Debnam. I loved it. A lot. I caught on to beekeeping and honeybee research very quickly, presented at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research to a standing room only audience, and was then offered a position as a research assistant with the University of Montana. I started the day after graduation, and bees have been my life ever since.
Although I loved research, I felt a strong need for a more “boots on the ground” approach to supporting bees and sustainable agriculture. So, I created the Bee Girl organization, with a focus on bridging the gap between the academia and our capitol buildings, and the people who have the power to make change starting now.
RVM: Ashland’s Bee City USA subcommittee has recently announced a program to encourage landowners to create pollinator friendly habitats. What does this mean for the bee community in Ashland?
SRL: This is great news for both bees, and backyard beekeepers! The one thing that every person in Ashland, and the greater Rogue Valley can do for us is plant more flowers. Bees rely on the nectar and pollen that come from flowers to sustain themselves and feed their young. In turn, they thrive and pollinate our food gardens and flower beds.
RVM: What are your predictions for bee populations in the next few years?
SRL: When I first started Bee Girl in 2011, the only comments and questions that I would get at our public events were relating to “killer bees” and cell phone towers. Now the range and depth of public understanding is impressive. With so much public awareness, and land managers and policy makers collaborating for real solutions, I just have to hope for, and perhaps predict, that the populations will stabilize. But I fear it may get worse before it gets better.
RVM: Do you recommend that people curb their honey intake?
SRL: No way! Demand for more honey will encourage our land managers and policy makers to work with beekeepers and provide habitat for bees to thrive on. Honey is an important commodity in our country, and beekeeping culture is an ancient art and science, in need of preservation.