Born and raised in NYC, Anastasia Cole Plakias is a food enthusiast and veteran of the city’s ever-growing restaurant industry. She is the Director of the Brooklyn Grange rooftop farm, a 1-acre commercial farm located in the Brooklyn Navy Yards.
Having started out as Sales, Events and Communications Department, she now also focuses on bridging the gap between the farm lifestyle and the communities it depends on and provides for.
In this installment of her 20to30 interview, we introduce her insight on the important impact of bees on the ecosystem.
Hello I’m Laura Lehmann, founder of 20to30, and we’re here at Brooklyn Grange interviewing Anastasia.
Can you touch on the importance of bees and the disappearance of bees around the world?
Yeah, bees are dwindling in number and it’s a crisis. Bees are out there in the field accessing our food before it’s even food. Honey bees are essentially the canaries in the agricultural coal mine and when the canary stops singing it’s time to get out of the coal mine, well the bees are no longer buzzing and it’s a terrifying thing. The reasons are inconclusive but there’s very solid research that links the use of agricultural chemicals to Colony Collapse Disorder, to the weakening of bees.
It’s also staggering to look at how our demand for honey in this country has expanded while the amount of honey that we’re producing is steadily decreasing. So, it’s actually legal in this country to sell honey in a market that’s up to 49% high fructose corn syrup or other sweetener and label it simply as honey, as long as 51% or more is honey. This is a terrible thing that we’ve done; I mean honey you think what is more simple than honey, right? To go out and purchase that, you’re not looking at the ingredients on a bottle of honey and there are none but the fact is it may not be honey.
So, kids out there, do your research.
Yeah. Yeah. Or, just know your beekeeper.
Beekeeping is something that a lot of people are interested in doing and it’s a great gateway agricultural activity. I think it’s easier to keep bees than it’s to grow tomatoes; basically the bees want you to not get in their way because they really are a tremendously efficient organism and they behave as one single organism, the hive. Our beekeeping training programs proved incredibly popular, our bees have proved incredibly prolific and productive and that’s been a really exciting sort of development that’s come out of our farm.
Prolific, you mean in terms of their cross pollination? In the farm, in terms of the honey they make?
Both of those and interestingly, in terms of actually increasing in number so, the way that bees survive is to essentially throw off swarms. When a hive is doing well their queen is delivering on her role, which is essentially to go out and collect sperm from drones with wildly different genetics so, she might go out and mate with a dozen or more drones in one session. If a queen isn’t performing, the hive will depose her.
But when she is performing, when she comes back, with this diverse sperm and lays a lot of eggs and her workers are foraging efficiently, they’re bringing back loads of nectar, creating lots of honey, the hive will actually create new queens, new larvae queens and one of those queens will actually ideally be hatched first. She’ll kill the other larvae queens and then she’ll take half the hive or rather the former queen will take half the hive and they’ll strike out on their own and they’ll find a new home and that’s what a swarm is.
People think a swarm of bees sounds like an incredibly scary thing but actually it’s when they’re most docile, they get outside the hive and then there’s a little moment of like wait, did you bring the map? I didn’t bring the map. Where are we going? Do you have directions? I don’t know. They kind of hang out there and that’s when a beekeeper comes along, collects them and moves them into a new hive.
you know ladies, is that a fly or a bee?
Geez. The bees are a little frantic right now because it’s towards the end of their season and they’re trying to gather as much nectar as they can so, they’re like, are you sure you’re not a flower? Yes, we’re sure.
I already know I’m going to be on camera saying that it’s fun for a bee to like mate with like 20 partners.
Not fun for the drones, they get their insides ripped out but fun for her. They know where she is because she emits a high pitched shrieking noise when she goes out on her mating flights.
Sounds like college. (M3)
Or, your average Friday night on MacDougal Street.
Cinematography: Danielle Calodney & Dyani Douze
Edited by: Danielle Calodney
Interviewed by: Laura Lehmann