Bees bring hope to Leon County jail inmates with new reentry program
Bees were buzzing as they were getting acquainted with their new bee boxes in the apiary built by Leon County Jail inmates.
Dustin Nixson, an inmate, was eager to learn how to care for the thousands of bees in the four bee boxes as part of the Leon County Sheriff’s Office Ecology and Reentry Training Hub (EARTH) Haven.
He suited up in a beekeeper suit before gently blowing smoke into a bee box under the guidance of Sgt. Daniel Whaley, who cares for his own apiary outside of his day job.
The program has been up and running for about a week and Nixson is excited for what the future holds.
He’s looking forward to teaching his wife and children everything he learns through the EARTH program and turning beekeeping into a business to support his family when he goes home.
“We get a hive to take with us, the suits and basically everything we need to start,” said Nixson. “It’s going to be cool.”
Inmates who participate in the six-month program can earn a beekeeper apprentice certificate from the University of Florida.
If they don’t complete the program before they are released, they can choose to finish it and receive the certificate on their own.
Following the apprentice certification, inmates could choose to further their education and become master beekeeper, which would allow them to travel, inspect other beekeeper’s hives and help them better their apiaries.
“I’m definitely trying to take this all the way,” Nixson said with a smile. “It’s a very positive program. I see this one succeeding big time because everybody’s into it.”
There are currently three inmates working with the bees. Whaley hopes to grow the program to include 15-30 at a time over the next few years.
“It’s unlimited what you can do with honey, beeswax and the comb itself. It’s pretty amazing,” Nixson said. “You can make soaps, lip balms, and all kinds of candles.”
Nixson plans to focus on honey production as he gets his apiary off the ground and then getting his wife in on the business with the soap and candles.
EARTH Haven will offer other skills and trainings as well as possible certifications in pesticide application, arboriculture, landscaping, and horticulture.
This program is 100% funded by the Inmate Welfare Fund, in which monies are self-generated, non-taxpayer funds used to improve the transition of inmates back into the community.
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