The History of Bee Bold Mendocino

How it all began. It was a moment of inspiration. I was sitting at my computer when I received notice of a new email coming in. It was from Friends of the Earth. They were asking for a $25.00 contribution for something they were trying to save somewhere. Could have been a unique frog in Bolivia or a Beetle with red legs in Hawaii. I remember thinking about this “ask”. I wondered, how many people got this email asking for money? If I got it, I figured, many people got the “ask” letter.

My mind buzzed with the thought that the goal of this email was many small donations. How could I do better? What was $25.00 when we were raising thousands of dollars for organizations by selling coffee for the past 20 years? By 2015 we had raised over half a million dollars for environmental and social justice so I saw an opportunity to sell more coffee. Wasn’t that the mission of my business, and would the farmers benefit if I found good ways to sell more of their coffee. I could tell them that the coffee was helping in the battle to save the bees and to fortify their food supply.

I replied to the email. “I can donate $25.00 but I have a company and I would like to donate $100,000. What do I do and who do I speak with?” I left my contact information and waited. In a few hours an email appeared with the names and phone numbers of the Financial and Development staff and the Executive Director, and the private cell phone number of the Chairman of their Board of Directors, with a request that I get in contact.

Now I had no plan to donate $100,000, but I did have a plan to raise the money by selling coffee to their supporters. I learned that they had 350,000 of them. I promised a large portion of the sales would go to FOE if they sent their supporters to our web store. The percent was high enough to capture their interest (25%).

I suggested that they pick something that they could tell their supporters about how the funds raised by coffee sales would be used. People like to know what their money is to be used for. They responded, “We want the coffee money to go to our program to save Bees.” Their program was a national education project to inform the citizens of the world about the plight of pollinators. Their national program was called Bee Bold. It was a short walk from that project name to Bee Bold Coffee.

As we got into the fundraising communication it became clear to us that we at Thanksgiving Coffee Company had no beekeeping experience and our minimal level of knowledge on the subject made for very shallow communications around bees and pollinators. If we were to be authentic, we needed to begin to learn about bees. We needed to be around people who kept bees. So staff began to go to the local Beekeepers organization meetings to learn and discovered that there were a lot of hives on the coast and inland. We learned that there was an incredible group of dedicated people, that there were some organizations focused on bees and their problems, and we learned that there was no unifying force that would enable those beekeepers to assert themselves as a unified force for the bees.

We learned that the bees had many friends and we wanted to be among them to absorb knowledge because we knew we were “Johnny-Come-Latelies” and we did not want to presume leadership. But Thanksgiving Coffee Company had the structure, the staff, and the national connection with FOE. We felt we could best serve by using our staff time to bring bee people together to be more united and therefore have more power to exert on County and City leaders to make Mendocino County a Bee Friendly place. So our main bee person, Lavender Cinnamon, began to seek out the gardeners, beekeepers, and honey sellers. She discovered that there were a very large number of people both keeping bees and consciously aware of bee related issues. They presented a formidable group and we began to call them together. Our Mission: Mendocino County becomes the first Bee Friendly County in California. That’s how Bee Bold Mendocino began. To get some money in our new organization’s treasury, we created Bee Bold Coffee and used proceeds from its sales in Mendocino County to finance the graphics and communication and the beginnings of the Bee Bold Mendocino Movement. That was back in January 2015. So that is the story of how this focus on honey bees began for us at Thanksgiving Coffee Company.

In March 2016 The Noyo Food Forest accepted the responsibility of being the lead agency in the Bee Bold Movement. Thanksgiving Coffee committed to keeping the website current and continuing to sell Bee Bold in Mendocino supermarkets to support the organizing efforts toward accomplishing the mission of making Mendocino County the first Bee friendly County in California.

By Paul Katzeff
CEO at Thanksgiving Coffee Company