Camp Korey returns to roots, welcomes honey bees to farm

  • Written by Valley View Staff

Beekeeper Dave Schiefelbein holds up an empty honeycomb from one of the newly installed hives (seen in the background). Schiefelbein refers to himself as Corky Luster’s “right-hand man.” Lisa Allen/staff photo
CARNATION–The last day of April was damp and cool – too chilly for the new arrivals to  take part in their welcoming ceremony. But the people in attendance at the Camp Korey event were plenty curious about Carnation Farm’s new residents.

As the honey bees huddled together in their hives to keep warm, beekeeper Corky Luster answered numerous questions, one of them about the range of the bees.

“They can fly as far as six miles away from the hive,” he said. “They can make it to the river from here. There are plenty of blossoms in this area – the biggest nectar flow is in the blackberry flower. They also like knotweed, clover and dandelion.”

Luster’s hives line a green-carpeted hillside about a mile from Camp Korey’s main campus. The introduction of the new hives is the latest effort in a mission to bring farming back to the 818-acre former showplace dairy.

The move to expand farming followed a planning session by the camp’s board of directors last fall. Board member Elbridge Stuart (great-grandson of the farm’s founder E.A. Stuart) noted that although hay has continued to be grown on the farm, the forests, pastures, fences, and farm buildings became underutilized when dairy farming was discontinued by the Nestle Company which had owned it since 1985. In 2005 Nestle sold the farm to Tim Rose who dreamed of having a place for sick children to go and have fun. He named the camp in honor of his son, Korey, who died from bone cancer at age 18. To help the camp succeed financially, Stuart’s foundation recently repurchased the farm.

To help navigate the new phase of farm development Camp Korey sought out experts. Partners and advisors now include Luster, owner of Ballard Bee Company, Eiko and George Vojkovich of Skagit River Ranch who lease pastures for organic grass fed beef, and Tom Hanson, whose International Forestry consulting is assisting Camp Korey to gently thin commercial stands of timber for healthy habitat and future harvests.

Camp Korey is a member of SeriousFun Children’s Network, founded by Paul Newman. Like all SeriousFun Camps around the world, Camp Korey provides joyful, transformative camp experiences for children with serious and life-altering medical conditions, always free of charge.

“We are always looking for ways to make our mission more vibrant,” said Camp Korey Executive Director Hillary Carey at the bee event. “The children’s program here is expanding by leaps and bounds and we are hoping to double the number of children this year. We are constantly reaching out to new children and are now holding reunions for previous campers.”

Luster said he was enchanted when he first laid eyes on the vast expanse of property his honeybees would be pollinating.

“I was so excited to see all this space,” he said. “By summer there should be 50-60,000 bees in the hives and each hive should produce about 180 pounds of honey.”

Luster said he started raising bees three years ago in Ballard, with the original aim of bringing bees back into the city.

“I noticed we were losing honey bees to colony collapse disorder,” he said. “Agriculture is dependent on bees, but bees are a fragile population now. I draw a parallel to the children who attend this camp  … they are fragile and come here to help with healing. This could be a healing place for bees, too.”

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