What is the Cluster Program:
The SCBA Cluster Program is a unique program developed in 2013 to meet the growing need of new beekeepers who want help with their bees. We had about 50 beekeepers in our membership in 2010 and now in 2015, we have over 400. In order to become a beekeeper, people need to take courses, read books, and join their cluster group. The clusters are regional: North, East, South, West, Central and Napa. You can join any one of the groups but we prefer to have you join the cluster region where your bees reside.
The Goal of the Cluster Program is:
- to give hands on experience to new beekeepers in smaller groups
- to build small beekeeper regional communities so members can help each other
- to provide opportunities for seasoned beekeepers to share their knowledge
- To provide opportunities for developing bee buddy relationships
- Sharing/ networking of local survivor stock; sharing brood and even Queen Cells, or young larvae for queen breeding
- Work hand in hand with the mentor program possibly having mentees call Cluster Leaders for references to get help or other resources
Cluster Meeting Format:
In general there are two kinds of meetings provided by Cluster Leaders: Hive Dives and Bee Cafes.
Hive dives are smaller groups where people actually do hands-on hive inspections with an experienced beekeeper. In the past, these have been free, although a donation has been suggested. In the future, we may need to charge a small donation to encourage more of our experienced beekeepers to lead these events.
Bee Cafes are larger groups and can be at any time of the week and even in the evening. In a Bee Café, folks from the local area get together and talk or socialize, usually with a specific topic. For instance in the late Fall, many new beekeepers are interested in equipment. There are other topics that can make for a great discussion such as feeding or not, treating or not, packages or not! Beekeepers love to talk about bees, and beekeeping.
To Contact Your Cluster Leader:
If you live in East Sonoma County (Sonoma Valley, Sonoma) EastCluster@sonomabees.org
If you live in West Sonoma County (West of 101, north of Penngrove, South of Healdsburg, Sebastopol, Occidental, Bodega, Pt.. Reyes Station): WestCluster@sonomabees.org
If you live in North Sonoma County (Healdsburg and cities North, Cazadero, Geyserville, Cloverdale): NorthCluster@sonomabees.org
If you live in Central Sonoma County (East of 101, north of Penngrove, South of Healdsburg, West of Sonoma Valley): CentralCluster@sonomabees.org
Petaluma, Cotati, Penngrove and South Sonoma County: SouthCluster@sonomabees.org
Top Bar Cluster, for beekeepers using Horizontal Top Bar and Warre hives: Topbarcluster@sonomabees.org
Napa County Cluster: NapaCluster@sonomabee.org
The Mentor Program has had difficulty getting off the ground because seasoned beekeepers usually have their hands full with their own bees and do not have enough time to help beginners. We are trying to develop a cadre of seasoned beekeepers who would be interested in helping folks who live in their areas. We are hoping that a reasonable fee will be a great incentive. In 2015, we developed a position called a mentor cluster leader who will work with possible mentors to provide these workshops for this hands-on service. Many mentors charge from $50-$100 per hour. If, instead of a one on one mentor, we provided small group mentoring, each person could donate a percentage of the fee. Not only will the group benefit from the mentor but also from each other. This is what we call developing a Bee Buddy system with the mentor coming to help at various times rather than every time.
If you want more information about the Mentor Program or if you would like to be a mentor, please contact our Mentor Coordinator at: MentorCluster@sonomabees.org