Marg Smith has been setting young minds abuzz about the marvels of bees since joining AITC-M as a volunteer in 2001.
The owner of Marg's Honey Inc., the retired schoolteacher is a familiar sight at the Made in Manitoba Breakfast, CALM classroom visits, and the Amazing Ag Adventure, where she dons her beekeeper's garb to show off the tools of the trade, and reveals a beehive's inner workings to students at all grade levels.
"It's important for me to help them connect with where their food is coming from," she says. "Most of them are amazed to learn that bees are part of a pollinator system responsible for roughly a third of all the fruits and veggies they eat."
In recent years, she's seen more students arrive with that understanding already in place – a shift she credits, in part, to AITC-M programs and resources reaching more classrooms.
Still, bees can be alarming to young people. Marg says it's rewarding to take the sting out of their fears by inviting them to explore a demonstration hive up close.
"The ones who really show up deathly afraid they're going to get stung are the ones really soak up the information I give them and finish the learning activity first: which is to find the queen."
AITC-M Volunteer and Program Manager Larissa Peitsch says the dedication, knowledge and passion of volunteers like Marg "help to make our programs shine and provide essential learning to students across our province. She shares with such joy, you can't help but smile and listen with wonder. We’re so thankful for all that she does.”
Marg built up her honey trove of apiary knowledge and bee lore over 43 years owning beehives with her husband in St. Andrews, Manitoba. Through her volunteer work, she wants students to understand the threats facing bees in Manitoba today, from disease to habitat loss.
"There are almost 900 apiaries in our province and growing. While I feel positive about the future of beekeeping, the challenges of keeping bees alive and healthy also continue to grow," she says. "It'll be up to young people to secure a better future for bees and the agriculture systems they support."
When Marg isn’t volunteering at AITC-M events, she keeps busy mentoring new beekeepers, helping researchers, conducting tours of her hives, and pollinating classrooms across Manitoba with knowledge. She estimates she reaches up to 30 classrooms in a normal year.
For Marg, volunteering is the bee’s knees because she learns as much as she teaches.
"Meeting other Ag in the Classroom volunteers and hearing their stories has really opened my eyes to the how much opportunity exists in agriculture. I’m so happy to spread that message."