Being a beekeeper can have sweet rewards, and we don't mean just honey and money. Besides offering low startup costs and the potential for decent profit, beekeeping requires only light labor and limited social interaction.
It may be a perfect opportunity for disabled veterans to make money, regain independence and strengthen their mental and physical health.
In 1919 as troops returned from World War I, the federal government began recommending beekeeping as a profession for soldiers, especially disabled veterans. In fact, the Department of Veterans Affairs currently offers beekeeping programs at several of its medical centers as part of its recreational therapy programs.
Those enrolled in the VA programs report that beekeeping improves their social connections and helps to decrease their symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress, resulting in a reduced need for medication and therapy visits.
While the VA doesn't offer beekeeping as part of its national recreational therapy program, it is offered at several VA locations across the country.
There are also a number of non-VA programs for veterans interested in beekeeping available through local universities and national nonprofit organizations. They include:
- American Beekeeping Federation -- a national organization with links to several state and local beekeeping groups
- Bees4Vets -- Works with Nevada veterans
- Bee Lab at the University of Nebraska -- Lincoln
- Bee Veterans program at the University of Minnesota
- Heroes to Hives -- Offered at locations nationwide
- Hives for Heroes -- National organization
- West Virginia's Veterans and Heroes to Agriculture
Some of the programs help with startup costs, and many are either run specifically for veterans or have special programs or groups available to assist interested vets.
Startup costs vary, depending on how much work you are willing, or able, to do. But most estimates run from $300 to $500 per hive to begin. Each hive can generate as much as $1,000 to $5,000 in profit per season. Of course, there is much work to be done if you want to make beekeeping a full-time job but, for many, it can be a lucrative side job that has both monetary and mental health benefits.
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