Who: Jana Kinsman
What: Bike a Bee
Where: Chicago, Illinois
I'm lucky enough to see beekeeper Jana Kinsman, she’s always sharing something
with me: half her cookie, knowledge about bikes, butter and bees or an
adorable, hand-drawn doodle. Jana is an illustrator, beekeeper and graphic
designer in Chicago. Her latest project, Bike a Bee, is a reflection of her generosity and aims to contribute local
honey to the city’s farmers markets, while also creating community
formal education is in design, but her practical knowledge draws from her time
spent biking all over the country and working at an apiary in
Eugene, Oregon. She quickly fell in with the beekeeping process, paired her bee
plans with her favorite mode of transportation and in January 2012 a
Kickstarter was born. In the summer of 2012, once Bike a Bee was funded, Jana
was able to build Bike a Bee's first eight hives and start teaching classes and
workshops for elementary school kids. I spent a lovely spring morning following
Jana and a Bike a Bee volunteer on one of their routes through the West side of
The Test Workshop
works out of her apartment (equipped with an enviable amount mason jars) and a
Logan Square coworking space. Most of her time is spent on her bike and out in
the gardens. When it comes time to harvest she sets up shop in her kitchen or
living room. For the time being this provides enough space but as Bike a Bee
grows Jana has hope for her own garden in order to teach and host classes. "I
also really like the idea of having a honey house. A sticky, messy place with
no AC where beekeepers can harvest. Ideally that would include the garden and
maybe a storefront where the honey is sold."
The Secret Sauce
Bee honey is making its debut this summer. The honey is chemical free and draws
flavors from Chicago’s abundant flower sources including woodland phlox, white
clover and bluebells. A hint of surprise comes with every batch, as each hive
location will produce its own unique flavor.
The Business Plan
Bike a Bee is working to working to become a 501(c)(3) organization and relies
solely on volunteer labor and community donations. Proceeds from goods bought
on the online store go
directly to building more hives and providing educational tools. Jana says "We
will never stop doing it all by bicycle!" Luckily local bicycle company, Ciclo
Urbano, lends Bullitt cargo bikes for all the heavy lifting, allowing Jana and
team to transfer and build new hives.
So what's the result of all this pollen
hoarding, learning, sharing and biking? Good calf muscles, obviously, but also
really delicious honey and a valuable educational resource for Chicago's local
6 Quick Questions for Jana Kinsman
1. Favorite online resources for your kitchen?
any blogs that are about foraging and wild edibles. I read them when I come
across them but I don’t have any that I consistently use. Hunger and Thirst is a favorite.
I tend to
stay away from beekeeping blogs. There are a lot of opinions and methods out
there that are all valid, but as a beekeeper just starting out I think it's
important to have a solid understanding of bees, a great mentor, and the
willingness to try things. Too many choices and internet advice will just get
2. The one thing you can't live without?
My bicycle. And when I say
"bicycle" I mean "bicycles" because I have three that I all
love equally. They're my legs, my power, my transport, my mighty trucks.
3. If you could spend a day with anyone, who would it be and why?
Michael Thompson from the Chicago Honey Co-op. He's been a beekeeper for 40+
years and also used to run a landscaping business. We've spent days together
before, and they're always my favorite. We shoot the shit about trees, plants,
food, our favorite Chicago folks, and of course beekeeping.
4. What's in your Google reader?
have one! I rely on my twitter feed to keep me updated on stuff.
5. If you won a million dollars, what would you do with it?
off all of my debt and my siblings' debt, buy property in Chicago, give myself
a nice and cushiony savings account, then donate the rest to NFP's and
organizations that i admire.
6. What's the best way to taste your honey?
out of the jar, on a spoon. For comparison fun, try it next to wildflower honey
from Michigan, for example. Chicago honey is truly special. Once you know and
love it, have it on some crusty bread with really yellow butter.
(Images: Lucy Hewett)