Thirteen Years In Floyd, VA
Over the past thirteen 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 hives.
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.