Monday, December 5, 2011

Goodbye to Fillmore Apiary

In 2004 when we started our co-op, we had no idea how long we might be allowed to keep bees on the property along West Fillmore St in Chicago, perhaps 2 or 3 years at best. It has been our great pleasure to have had an apiary and community farm there for 8 full years. When we started, we couldn’t have have imagined what a rich experience it would be.

An abandoned industrial remnant reverted to prairie wherever the concrete wasn’t, we found ourselves surrounded by nature in the middle of Chicago. It is easy to describe the place in terms of size and location but much harder to describe the atmosphere. What we made there was much more than honey. We made friends. 
Beekeeping Class June 2011

With the help of The North Lawndale Greening Committee, we made a community farm for anyone who wanted to join. We made a gathering place. We made a place for learning about bees, about nature and about ourselves.

Sadly, our time there is almost up. The property has been sold and we must move out in late Winter of 2012. We can’t hope to find another place a large as Fillmore Apiary so we are looking for 3 or so smaller locations. We have a few possibilities lined up but nothing is certain. We really want to stay in the North Lawndale community but know this may not be possible.

We will miss the apiary on Fillmore so much but can be happy that the friends we made because of it will still be with us. In looking back on this past year, I made a list of things we did in 2011.

  • Conducted tours of the apiary for school groups and the public.
  • Gave beekeeping presentations at the Power House High School, Nature Museum, College of Dupage, University of Chicago Hillel and others.
  • Continued hosting a community farm at the apiary in partnership with the North Lawndale Greening Committee & others
  • Tended 50 hives and sold honey and products at 2 Farmer markets from July to the present
  • Continued to raise Illinois Honeybee queens.
  • Continued teaching beekeeping to Master Gardeners at the Museum of Science and Industry, Smart Home Exhibit.
  • Taught beekeeping to 50 people through Winter classes at the Jane Addams Hull House Museum.
  • Employment in beekeeping skills for neighbors and volunteers over the past 8 years.
  • Gave advice on beekeeping to members of the public through our website blog and email contacts.
  • Tended 8 hives on City of Chicago Buildings and one at the Lurie Garden, Millennium Park.
  • Continued the preSERVE* partnership with Slow Food Chicago, Neighborspace and the North Lawndale Greening Committee, growing Sweet Potatoes, Black-eyed and Crowder Peas on a former vacant lot. (12th Place & Central Park Ave.)
  • Hosted 2 events at the apiary open to the public; Sweet Summer Solstice and TomatoFest

As a community based organization, we have always operated on the slimmest of shoestrings so paying for the costs of moving and relocation will be difficult to handle. Our “rent” for the past 8 years has been 12 dollars a year thanks to the generosity of the developer, Mark Ross. We have always supported our work with sales of our honey and other products but we find ourselves needing to raise money to cover moving expenses both expected and unexpected. We will probably have to pay for fencing any property without it. That could run into thousands of dollars. So we have to raise money now. Our timeline is short.

If you have an interest in helping out financially send us a note using the “Contact Us” link at the top of this page.

If you would like to share your memories of Fillmore Apiary, leave them in the comments section of this post.

If you have pictures to share visit and add your pictures or video.


  1. This is sad. I remember my first visit to the apiary and taking my nephew there, who was amazed at the idea of a bee farm. I hope you guys find an awesome spot where you could recreate what you had at the Fillmore Apiary.

    If you're looking for large, industrial spaces there seems to be a lot along Odgen right before you hit Cicero Road and along 26th Street right before the viaduct that leads into Cicero Road.

  2. So sorry to hear this. Hope the quest for new location(s), and the fundraising is progressing well.

  3. Please consider voting for me! I am trying to win my first hive!

    see the details here:
    you need to like their page and then magically my entry will appear. You can vote daily.