Program turns Tampa's veterans into beekeepers

- In sprawling fields just north of Tampa, a Bay Area bounty is born. Fruit trees flourish. Vegetables like kale and cabbage break ground and reach to the sky.

None of it would be possible without Christian Ramthun and his hive of prized honey bees.

"I decided I was going to be a businessman. I didn't know what I was going to do until I came upon Bees," Ramthun said. 

In his former life, Ramthun was a military officer specializing in tank warfare. After 25 years of service, he came to a crossroad in life, and it was the taxpayers of Hillsborough County who showed him the way.

"At the time I was getting out of the military I took a tour, the Veterans Agricultural Tour, to learn a little bit more about the agricultural opportunities here in the county," he explained.

The Military Agriculture Tour is a Hillsborough County program created for military veterans, reservists, and their spouses. The program showcases career options in the agriculture industry after they leave active duty.

Christian decided to turn bees into a family business.

The honey bee and its pollination is responsible either directly or indirectly for one-third of all the food we eat, but their population is declining. Christian says if humans aren't careful we could be in trouble, real trouble.

"We really need to watch out for mono-crop culture, which is where an entire swath of land is just one crop and nothing else grows there. While the crop is there, the pollinators are happy, but then they go through a dearth period when nothing is available," Christian explained.

That means an entire hive can starve. For now Christian and his army of honey bees continue to keep busy, giving crops the pollination they need to feed us all.

He plans to make sure honey bees will be with us for years to come and is grateful for this opportunity to have a second career after the military.

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