The recipients of the fourth annual NA Bayer Bee Care Community Leadership Award are Scott Witte, beekeeper and director of agronomy at Cantigny Golf in Wheaton, Illinois, and Luke Cella, executive director of the Midwest Association of Golf Course Superintendents (MAGCS). The pair is recognized for their efforts to promote healthy ecosystems for honey bees and other pollinators through the Bee Barometer Project. Cantigny Golf is home to six managed hives and two wild hives, all of which thrive on native wildflower patches found throughout the grounds. However, these bees support more than just the pretty flowers that line the fairway. They offer a great learning opportunity for golfing patrons about the important role pollinators play in the outdoor landscapes we enjoy. Additionally, honey provided by the managed hives is incorporated into meals prepared by the course chef, as well as sold in the pro shop to help generate funds for Witte’s environmental projects.
The Bee Barometer Project, founded by Witte in 2010, is dedicated to changing public perception about golf courses’ roles in conservation and land management. Golf courses offer large areas of valuable greenspace across the Midwest, which are ideal for supporting diverse ecosystems with various types of flora and fauna, not just for sport.
As the 2016 winners, Witte and Cella will receive a $6,000 grant to bring their program to other golf courses in the area. Additionally, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, of which Cantigny Golf is a part, will match the grant two-to-one to set up a Pollinator Fund of $18,000 that will be utilized to help promote diverse ecosystems on golf courses throughout Chicago.
“I’m very honored and humbled to have won the US Community Leadership Award,” said Witte. “With these funds, we can perpetuate the message that golf courses are very healthy ecosystems when managed properly and proactively, and honey bees and pollinators can coexist side by side with world class golf conditions all across the US.”
The award, sponsored by the Bayer North American Bee Care Program, was created to distinguish individuals who use their interest in honey bees to benefit a community, and has now evolved to recognize the important partnership between beekeepers and other environmental stakeholders in their local community.