The next time a curious bee begins to mill around in your personal space, take a moment to think before you frantically try to scare it away. This little critter and its tiny counterparts are the reason we have access to fresh fruit, veggies, nuts and seeds every day, pollinating more than one third of the global food supply. Unfortunately, bees are facing a dire future caused by pesticides and urban sprawl, meaning that we too are facing a crisis. Jack Wilson Stone and Kat Skull of Bee One Third have donned their beekeeping suits in the name of educating urban dwellers about the importance of bees, using traditional methods to re-home wild colonies of bees into hives and onto Brisbane rooftops.
There’s a crossroads that a young person reaches upon finishing high school where the world lies before them like freshly fallen snow, just waiting for them to choose a path and leave their mark. The trouble is, upon reaching that crossroads at the age of 17, many of us are none the wiser as to where our path lies. So we wander aimlessly across the globe, hoping that our destiny will make itself known.
Jack Wilson Stone’s post-formal-education wanderings took him all over the map, from California to Eastern Europe, and slowly began to reshape his perspective on the world. “The biggest things that influenced me overseas were the cultures,” he says. “Having spent 15 months in Eastern Europe, I adopted a strong interest in the food culture over there and how they managed food as an integral part of everyday living. It was a huge difference to how I’d been raised with junk food and fast food and things that were easy to fry up and get out on a plate. It was a ritualistic thing in Eastern Europe to sit down and appreciate a meal, and it was something I was really intrigued by.”
Inspired, Jack returned to California in search of farms that he could work on to learn the true process of growing his own food. He ended up spending time on communes and farms in northern California, learning the intricacies of a self-sufficient lifestyle. When he returned to Australia in late 2011, he felt a burning desire to share the valuable lessons he had learnt with other people.
“I wanted to teach people to make that connection with the process through which their food is grown,” he says. “It’s vital and is the one thing that connects us all. Food is the universal energy that keeps us all running and, I think, is the one thing that keeps us all really level-headed as one, because we all have to live on something.”
In search of an outlet to put his philosophy into practice, Jack went on a trip to Melbourne and came back with an imagination brimming with ideas. “I saw the types of things they were doing down there and found out how I could start growing my own veggies and potentially teach others how to do the same,” he says. “But that all fell through when I failed to grow a couple of veggie-patch beds!”
At the time Jack was working at Pearl Cafe in Woolloongabba with Kat Skull, and the two began discussing how they could start a business in Brisbane that was different and new. “We looked at ways other people were doing it around the world and bees kept coming up as this universal problem with food. Because if you go back to the beginning, what actually starts the growth of food? It’s the farmer planting the seed, yes, but without the vital ingredient of bees, you don’t actually get a yield of fruit and veggies. The bee has to pollinate the plant for there to be any food for the masses.”
Bees soon became the pair’s obsession, driven by burgeoning media reports that bees were dying off and that the world would be in dire trouble without them. Within a month, Jack had set up his first beehive and began teaching himself the craft of an apiarist. “I’ve always been a hands-on person, but I wanted to be hands on in what I was teaching,” he explains. “Gardening is one thing, but beekeeping is something in which you can see an immediate impact on the environment around you.”
Jack and Kat gave their concept the name Bee One Third, in reference to the significant contribution that bees make to the global food supply. Their goal was to raise awareness amongst urban dwellers about the trouble that bees are facing. “There are some really big problems out in the country where bees are dying off really quickly because of the use of toxic chemical pesticides on our food crops,” Jack explains. “The bees try to pollinate the food crops and then bring the pesticides back to the hives. So they’re dying off in masses all around the world, although it’s not really documented in Australia.”
Jack says that it’s people who live in the inner city who have the power to make change. “We’re trying to communicate that bringing the bees back to the city is vital for us all and it’s vital for urban pollination that we understand how integral these little bees are. And all that comes with the really cool by-product of honey.”
The education of kids about the importance of bees is also one of the duo’s driving forces. “In today’s world there’s this whole disconnect between us and the origin of our food and I think it’s really important to get past that,” Jack urges. “We need to teach our kids because the next generation is ultimately the one that will save the generations to come.”
Bee One Third now has 11 beehives perched on rooftops across Brisbane, including at Gerard’s Bistro on James Street, the gunshop café in West End and Lightspace in Fortitude Valley. “The honey from the Lightspace hive was our most beautiful honey this season,” Jack says. “It had this intriguing lychee and lime flavour and we couldn’t quite put a finger on what flower it had come from. But I guess that’s the beauty of the inner city – the level of biodiversity on such a tight scale. We’ve got so many different cultures from Europe, Asia and the Americas who all live throughout these suburbs and are planting their own trees – so the bees have a field day!”
Honey fiends eager to sample the delicious converted nectar can currently purchase Bee One Third’s Neighbourhood Honey from Cup Specialty Coffee in West End and Pearl Cafe, and it will soon also be available from the gunshop café.
The long-term goal for Jack and Kat is to see hives on rooftops all over Australia. “It’s happening big time in Melbourne and I think there’s the same potential in Brisbane with the environment we live in because we’re so lucky with our weather up here,” Jack says. “My goal is to see the grey spaces of the rooftops of Brisbane transformed into utilised green spaces like in Europe – whether it be for rooftop bars and restaurants or rooftop gardens. We’re quickly running out of space to get together as a community in the city, and rooftops are the perfect platforms to bring people in because it’s urban acreage that isn’t being used.”
Jack says that his greatest challenge has been simply believing that he could be the person he wanted to be and that his dreams really were achievable. “In the past 18 months I’ve been able to do more than I could have ever expected. Just being able to follow your dream and teach and engage people in the things that you love is amazing. I believe you are a reflection of the environment you create, so if you create positive energy, it will come back to you.”