Morgan County Beekeeper a Longtime Friend of Extension

by Wendi Williams

ALABAMA A&M UNIVERSITY, Ala. — When Penny Roy, a beekeeper in Morgan County, had a major surgery, she worried about who would be able to care for her backyard bees while she recovered. However, with one phone call, her friend Allyson Shabel — an Alabama Cooperative Extension System urban regional agent — was there to help.

“They (Extension agents) are so hospitable, genuine and community oriented,” Roy said. “She came out twice and treated my hives, and I was very surprised and thankful. Not just anybody could have done that for me.”

This is just one of the many interactions that Roy has had with Alabama Extension over the years. From helping get her started with beekeeping to providing current management information, Extension has been there for Roy every step of the way on her beekeeping journey.

Getting Started

Honey BeesThe National Honey Board estimates there are approximately 115,000 to 125,000 beekeepers in the United States. Most of these keepers are hobbyists with less than 25 hives. Roy, who is a retired schoolteacher, is glad to be among them. As an elementary science teacher for 25 years, Roy was fortunate to find her way into beekeeping when a parent during a field day offered her several hives. Because she didn’t know much about bees, she turned to Alabama Extension for help, and that is where she met Shabel.

That first interaction was nine years ago. Today, Roy continues to partner with Alabama Extension to share her knowledge of beekeeping with others in the community. Roy said she turns to Extension to learn the best management practices for her apiary.

“When you know that you have a research-backed authority that is freely giving you answers to questions, that helps you to narrow down and choose what you want to do in your beehive,” Roy said.

Roy gathers information from other beekeepers as she manages her hives, but always keeps Alabama Extension’s information in the back of her mind.

Beekeeping Benefits

While beekeeping is not without its painful stings, there are benefits to being a beekeeper. Roy has built up an immunity to pollen and other air pollutants. In addition, she provides her products to the community.

“I have sold bees before and I have gifted honey to family, friends and my pastor — and I love doing that,” Roy said. “I make a salve out of the beeswax that has become very popular with family and friends, and people call and ask me for it now.”

Another benefit is forging strong relationships with Alabama Extension staff.

History with Extension

Roy’s relationship with Alabama Extension did not just start with beekeeping.

“I was a science teacher and I found that Extension was really good to provide for me,” Roy said. “There were many times that I had them come into my classroom and help me teach subjects. They had so much in-depth knowledge and the kids loved seeing a different face.”

Although she was aware of what Extension offered as a science teacher, she soon discovered other Extension resources.

“I learned that Extension offered classes to the public and in subjects that I was interested in, so I have taken as many classes as I can,” Roy said. “I am always shocked at how available the agents are. I had no idea that was available in Alabama, and I am very glad to find them as a resource for me now in retirement.”

Discover Alabama Extension

In the same way the Extension staff is dedicated to her, Roy, a beekeeping hobbyist, is a true and longtime friend of Alabama Extension. Roy advises people to stop by their local Extension office to pick up some additional information and discover what Alabama Extension can offer.

“They need to get in touch with Alabama Extension if they have an agricultural need,” Roy said. “I have called them about pecan trees. I have talked to them concerning my raised beds, my greenhouse, diseases in my plants and beekeeping. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that Alabama provides this to the community.”

Supporting Alabama beekeepers is just one of the many ways Alabama Extension delivers solutions for life’s everyday challenges. Extension educators are strong community partners, bringing practical ways to support homes, farms, people and communities.