The Iowa Primary…

I just attended the 99th Annual meeting of the Iowa Honey Producer’s Association. They meet in Marshaltown every year at a motel large enough to handle the 150+ people attending. The Association has about 400 members state wide so 40% of their members attending was outstanding.

Though not nearly as contentious, dramatic, or as well covered by the media as the more politically charged primary elections going on at the moment…especially in Iowa… the results of the annual elections held at the meeting are no less significant to the beekeepers there. With only a single candidate for both president and vice president, who were both incumbents, the results were predictable and overwhelming. Both are commercial beekeepers…two of the few left in that state…and they are dedicated, passionate, and good at what they do. Like many groups the VP is the program and meeting chair, getting things organized and finding speakers. He does, by the way, work with a very engaged and dedicated wife…which is a Godsend to most of us guys. Meanwhile, the president sort of oversees the whole, and is the point man (or woman) for bigger pictures. The president doesn’t get as involved in the meeting plans, but there’s input and opinion all around. And besides, there’s other folks to take care of the details.

Roberts, of course, was in the room, but pretty much nobody paid close attention. There were motions and seconds and campaign speeches and secret ballots, kind of. And it was, as it was supposed to be, a lot of fun.

The contest for treasurer was interesting. The current treasurer has steered the IHP through a complete revamp of their bookkeeping, obtaining the Generally Accepted Accounting Procedures (GAAP) title, obtaining for the group a 501(3)(C) status, bringing in outside investment analysis…doing it right it seems, with qualifications to die for. But Lo, there was another candidate…a banker who was a former treasurer for several groups running in the thousands of members…qualifications it seems, also to die for. They both gave a campaign speech outlining their accomplishments and attributes. The incumbent won, but I heard it was close. But what a backup to have!

Iowa beekeepers divide their state into six geographical districts, each with a board representative that is elected annually. This year several of those districts had more than one candidate who wanted to be on the board. Really. And each of those candidates gave a campaign speech…really. They came from families long in the business and the association, newbies who wanted to get involved, old timers who had been around but finally were interested, and some in between … what a trip! I haven’t been to a beekeeper’s meeting that had the enthusiasm, involvement or drive like this group in a long time – maybe the Essex group in Massachusetts, or the Backyarders  in Connecticut… but what a breath of fresh Midwest air.

Like some state groups the IHP have a strong presence at their state fair, selling enough honey lemonade to float a battleship, and enough honey at their booth to pay down the national debt. Of course they sell honey sticks, too, but only clover honey sticks…none of that flavored stuff for these purists. The income from all this allows them to accomplish a lot of things otherwise not possible for most groups. But still, sometimes volunteers are scarce…even in the best of groups it seems bodies can sometimes be hard to find.

One of the things they get to do to show they have their heads on straight is that they voted to send their State Apiary Inspector to the AIA meeting in Beltsville this winter…because the State Dept of Ag won’t. How’s that for common sense? But for a dose of ‘just like everybody else’, they spent just 10 minutes debating to spend the $2000.00 needed to send him there, but later, they took the better part of an hour to raise the dues from $15.00 to $20.00 a year. Sound familiar?

My hat’s off to this group. They do a good job and I hope the members appreciate the work involved to make all this happen…the fair, the meetings, the historian, the vendors, the Honey Queen program, the legislative work…all of it, and probably a lot that I missed.

Your group could learn a lot from them. I did.

Thanks Iowa, for setting a great example, a good time, and a lot of fun.