Physician seeks to make a difference
Dr. Michael Bauer never imagined being a beekeeper.
Growing up in Minnesota, his father raised bees and “I vowed never to be around bees,” said Bauer, a family medicine doctor with ThedaCare Physicians-Waupaca.
But that changed after moving to Waupaca and beginning his medical practice.
Bauer struggled with raising raspberries and complained to his dad about the lack of bees to pollinate his plants.
His dad responded by sending him two bee colonies.
Today, Bauer has 150 bee colonies, sells the honey produced by his bees and has helped communities in Nicaragua set up their own beekeeping businesses.
“I never imagined it would grow like this,” he said. “I easily spend 30 hours a week on the bees during the summer, but it’s been amazing.”
Three years ago, Bauer became involved with the Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners Inc.
They were looking for a beekeeper to help educate farmers in Nicaragua looking to raise their own bees.
“The beekeeping industry in Nicaragua was devastated by the introduction of African bees as well as the unrest there,” he said. “Beekeeping is just resurging now. Nicaraguan honey is considered all organic so the demand is huge.”
The Nicaragua Bee Project provides interested residents with a bee colony and the education to raise their bees.
Bauer made his first trip to Nicaragua and was amazed.
Since then, he’s gone down three or four times a year, spending about two weeks at a time.
This marks his latest trip there.
“I never thought I would be doing this,” he said. “Organizations, such as schools or towns, will contact me and then we work with someone in Nicaragua to check the site and make sure it’s OK and the people are really serious.”
From there, Bauer works with a local beekeeper to buy bees and the necessary equipment and supplies to raise the bees.
“The local beekeeper also promises to check in monthly to see how things are going for a year,” he said.
Bauer shows local residents how to care for the bees and how honey is harvested.
“Selling honey can really supplement a family’s income,” he said. “Raising bees doesn’t require a lot of land and they know that whatever honey is produced will sell.”
While he’s a physician and his wife, Mary, is a Lutheran minister, he had not considered mission work before.
That changed after his first trip to Central America.
“Beekeeping is my passion and being able to share it with others and help them to make a real difference in their life has been huge,” Bauer said.
He appreciates the support he and the organization received for the work in Nicaragua through its GoFundMe page and Facebook page.
He also does local presentations about his efforts in Nicaragua.
“It is amazing to see what a difference these bees can make for the people living there,” Bauer said. “I never dreamed of this.”
People may visit www.nicabejaproyecto.org for more information about the Nicaragua Bee Project.