Buzzing along: Mad Urban Bees

Ensuring bee population vitality
Buzzing along: Mad Urban Bees
Nathan Clarke

A local beekeeper is leveraging the demand for hyper-local food products (as in, your own backyard), plus helping area gardens grow and ensuring the vitality of the bee population.

Nathan Clarke’s three-year-old business works simply like this: People hire him to bring a hive to their yard and maintain it, and in return they get a share of the honey produced.

“Bees travel two miles in every direction for food. Everyone in the neighborhood who has a flower or herb garden will benefit by having bees. The bees benefit from the biodiversity,” explains Clarke.

Maintaining the bee population is important, Clarke says. Between forty-two and sixty percent of the bee population were lost last year nationwide and in Wisconsin, respectively.

To combat that, Clarke launched a Kickstarter campaign to buy supplies to raise queen bees. He more than doubled his goal of $8,000 and forged collaborations with local food producers. Supporters who donated to the campaign received different levels of delicious rewards, including Underground Meats’ honey-cured salami, Quince & Apple’s honey and lemon cocktail syrup and Yumbutter’s honey peanut butter–all made with Mad Urban Bees honey, of course.

Clarke is now raising queen bees, thus ensuring a vital bee population moving forward. Breeding queen bees locally not only increases the stock, but also creates a more winter-resistant strain of bees. “Hopefully with each successive year, I will breed stronger and stronger bees.”

As if he’s not already as busy as a bee now (sorry, we had to), Clarke is also Olbrich Botanical Gardens’s beekeeper, teaches beekeeping classes and works with a few community supported agriculture businesses, or CSAs, outside of the city to pollinate their properties. Soon he’ll start working with small local farms to pollinate their land, too.

Shoppers can find his honey at HyVee, Willy Street Co-Op, Regent Street Co-op, the Soap Opera, Mermaid Cafe and other local retailers.

What is social innovation?

According to Stanford University’s Social Innovation Review, social innovation is a “novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable or just than existing solutions” and benefits primarily society as a whole rather than private individuals.

It includes these elements:

Increasing employment, productivity and economic growth

Justice, fairness, environmental preservation, improved health, arts and culture and better education

A social innovation:

Can be a product, production process or technology (much like innovation in general), but it can also be a principle, an idea, a piece of legislation, a social movement, an intervention or some combination of them.

Recognizes the fundamental role of cross-sector dynamics: exchanging ideas and values, shifting roles and relationships and blending public, philanthropic and private resources. Innovation blossoms where the sectors converge.

Can’t be understood, let alone solved, without involving the nonprofit, public and private sectors.

The M List
Madison Magazine‘s M List is a who’s who of organizations and individuals who are having an impact on our local culture and economy. In its third year, the M List recognizes those making strides in the area of social innovation. Last year’s list of innovators were in the food industry. The original M List, in 2013, honored the technology sector. The 2014 M List honored “Foodtastic” entrepreneurs and innovators.

Click here to return to the 2015 M List.