Meet the Spikenard team and Board of Directors, and learn about our organizational history and mission
Letter From Executive Director Alex Tuchman | July 20, 2021
Dear friends of the honeybee and community members,
The Spikenard Farm team is currently in transition, as we grow from the firm foundation that has been laid by our Founders, Gunther Hauk and Vivian Struve-Hauk. This new period of organizational development calls for a fresh look at who we are and who we want to become in the years ahead as we strive to consciously cultivate a heart-based community of social healing. While we intend to dive more deeply into this work once the growing season turns towards winter, it feels appropriate at this time to share a sample of the questions that we are currently carrying:
- How can we continue to develop principles of hospitality and invite others into a consciously cultivated sanctuary—a safe place to heal, connect, learn, and grow?
- How can we remove barriers and invite diversity into our staff, board, and community?
- What is the human and ecological history of this land and how can we assist in healing?
How we answer these and other questions will help our team to clarify and communicate our shared values in a unified way. We envision facilitated meetings, trainings, and plenty of time and space for self-development as we move forward together.
Thank you in advance for your patience and encouragement in this important work!
Twelve Years In Floyd, VA
Over the past twelve years, Spikenard Honeybee Sanctuary has transformed from a pasture on Hideaway Lane to a thriving biodynamic farm which is home to a vibrant flowering landscape, gardens, orchards, camping facilities, a caretaker cabin, a pavilion, and of course, some very happy and healthy honeybee colonies.
Since the first Spring, Spikenard has not wasted a minute towards fulfilling the purpose and mission of education towards saving the honeybee. At present, hundreds of people–visitors, workshop participants, and school groups–come to Spikenard each year to take part in the wonderful programs that have developed.
For the opportunity to teach and carry forward this important impulse for nature, the bees, and humanity, we are so incredibly grateful for the overwhelming support of friends and donors who have been there with us through this journey. It is this community of support that has made the development of the Sanctuary that you see in the slideshow below possible.
Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary arrived in Floyd, Virginia in the autumn of 2009 to an open meadow with no buildings or infrastructure on 25 acres, which were originally procured on a 99-year lease.
Gunther and Vivian arrived on the land with 3 trailers loaded with beehives, chickens, plants, tools, furniture, and farm machinery, and set out to bring their vision into reality, digging and planting the first garden beds with pollinator forage before winter set in.
Spikenard Farm hit the ground running from the very start. The highlights of the first year included a 5 acre planting of pollinator forage in the bottom fields, the establishment of the orchard and vegetable garden, increased exposure of Gunther’s work through the documentaries “Queen of the Sun” and “Vanishing of the Bees”, and the first 5 workshops on biodynamics, taught in collaboration with the Josephine Porter Institute.
An open barn, carport, comfort station, and a gazebo were all added to the Sanctuary infrastructure, and the new gates were opened for the first 3-day intensive workshop, which was given under market tents and became the inspiration for the two year Spikenard Biodynamic Beekeeper Training (SBBT). Gunther also continued to give talks around the area, and traveled the country for screenings of “Queen of the Sun.”
The newly planted orchard and expanding pollinator gardens gave a sigh of relief as the ~7 acre deer fence went up on the top of the hill. As the first interns joined the expanding Sanctuary and the new gardens and educational programs continued to develop, Spikenard Farm was able to purchase the 25 acre property. Soon after, a well was dug, electrical service was installed, and a parking area was developed to accommodate visitors. The first SBBT class was full with 30 attendees who came and inaugurated the first two-year training program.
The development of the Sanctuary infrastructure continued strongly in 2013, with a new hoophouse for growing pollinator plants, the Yurt/Welcome Center being completed and opened up for visitors, and the open-air Pavilion which offered the first teaching space on the grounds. As the second cohort began their two-year training, we celebrated the graduation of our first SBBT cohort.
A new bath-house and camping sites were developed, which opened the door for more people to camp at Spikenard Farm during the educational programs, and made it possible to host school groups for overnight field trips. All 35 beehives made it through the tough winter of 2013/2014. We constructed a bear-safe platform as a demonstration for bear protection and a gazebo to house our first Sun Hive.
The construction of the Cabin made it possible to have our Farm Manager move onto the grounds, offering greater care and protection for the bees, land, and infrastructure. A garden-entry pergola, a wood-fired oven, the Spikenard hive, a new pond for the bees, and tons of new flower beds were built in 2015. The educational programs continued to expand and develop, with the One Week Intensive drawing many international students to the Sanctuary. The Friday Open Days filled up with visitors, many school groups and college students came for extended field trips, and we finished and released an educational video, the “Hour of Decision”.
In 2016 we broke ground on the largest infrastructure project to date, the Bee Barn, which is a multi-purpose timber frame building including a beautiful teaching room, a woodshop, a salve-making room, a kitchenette, an office, and storage. Programs continued to grow strongly with 14 in-person workshops held at the Sanctuary, accounting for hundreds of students coming to learn all about our methods of beekeeping and land care.
Our educational programs continued to grow, including offerings on Top Bar Beekeeping and building Round Hives and Sun Hives. We also continued to develop offerings for children in the Floyd community with a 14 week Waldorf early childhood program and a young-adults program in collaboration with Springhouse Community School. In 2017, we taught our first 6-month online beekeeping webinar, called Foundations of Biodynamic Beekeeping, and Gunther expanded and republished Towards Saving the Honeybee.
Our pollinator forage plantings took a big jump forward with a new perennial meadow and a pollinator forest being planted between the Welcome Center and the Bee Barn. As more and more students graduated the two year SBBT and longed for continued education and training, we inaugurated the Spikenard Mentorship Program and hosted special festivals, including a Festival of Light and a Preparation Making Festival.
We started 2020 off with four workshops before coronavirus swept across the country and we moved all of our in-person offerings online. These online offerings greatly increased our exposure internationally, and the amount of beekeeping consulting through email and phone calls doubled. The break in in-person offerings gave us the chance to remodel the Yurt and it’s platform, add new products to our product line, and work more closely with local businesses to sell our pollinator plants.
Although we were able to offer a few in-person events, including Open Days, workshops, and class field-trips, most people connected to us through our online webinars as we continued to extend the reach of our teaching all around the world. Alex’s book A Lively Hive was published in the spring, and a new 5-acre deer fence was erected in the lowerfield allowing for the planting of pollinator hedgerows, perennial meadows, annual flowers, and rows of vegetables.
Here is a brief introduction to our organizational structure and team members. Like worker bees, we do not simply carry one task, but each of us strives to do all that we can in honor of the whole, within our unique and varied strengths. Our staff is called upon by the needs of our times to strive forth; to grow, learn, adapt, and change with the seasons and organizational needs. We endeavor to build a team that works closely together with commitment, respect, and dignity. Flexible cross-pollination between the office and the farm is the ‘propolis’ that holds us together, and we are so thankful to have gifted individuals on both sides—the blessing that makes our organization thrive!
Our Board Of Directors
The vision for Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary first came through Gunther, who had the beekeeping and gardening knowledge and skills to help contribute towards addressing the honeybee crisis, and the gift as a teacher to be able to communicate and share these methods with the world. However, Gunther could not have shared these gifts without an organizational platform, which was created by the talented support of Vivian, who co-founded Spikenard Farm with him and helped the vision of a safe place for the honeybees to manifest on Earth. From when Spikenard Farm was first incorporated in 2006 until they moved up to New York in 2020, Gunther and Vivian gave selflessly in service of the honeybees and were the pioneer visionaries who made all of this possible. May their teachings and creation continue to bloom and grow forevermore!