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Entries in urban beekeeping (7)


Urban Honey from The Fairmont Royal York Hotel, Toronto

Toronto downtown, view from my roomI'm back in Toronto at the moment. I'll be on Global TV morning news around 7:30 a.m. EST, then I've got some meetings around town. I also hope to visit a couple of urban agriculture projects that I wrote about in the book.

One of the first interviews I did for my book, in fact, was my friend David Garcelon, executive chef at the Fairmont Royal York and pioneer rooftop beekeeper. David's honeybee hives were the first in the Fairmont chain, which now has hives at several of its properties. (And David is now the Director of Culinary at the Waldorf Astoria in NYC. And yes, there are bees on the rooftop there now too.) Here's my post about David's bees from the Foodgirl blog archives from 2010.

The bees at the Fairmont Royal York are on the 14th storey rooftop and they forage on the rooftop herb garden and well beyond.

Upon check-in, I received a lovely little gift of a jar of the Sept 2011 Royal York honey. It's very dark, like buckwheat honey. I haven't tasted it yet, but will when I get it back home safe and sound.

Harvested Sept 2011 from the hives on the rooftop of the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, Toronto, Ontario



Urban Bees on the rooftop of the Waldorf-Astoria, NYC

Executive Chef David Garcelon on his rooftop herb garden at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, Toronto, Canada, Sept 2009I've known chef David Garcelon for almost 15 years now. Since we met when he was the executive chef at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, he's move on to the Fairmont Royal York, and now he's the Director of Culinary (ie. executive chef) at the Waldorf-Astoria. His love of food and gardening has also made him the chef who is leading the chef-beekeeper trend in North American hotels.

This spring, just as my book was hitting the shelves, David made a great video to congratulate me on the publication of Food and the City. I wrote about his bees at the Fairmont Royal York in the chapter 6. Technically, this chapter is about Paris, but there's a sub-section on urban beekeeping and so I shoe-horned the story about David's 14th floor rooftop bees at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto into the "Paris" chapter.

A couple of weeks ago, David's beekeeping program at the Waldorf-Astoria hit the papers both in Canada and in the US. Here's an excerpt and a link to the story.

"If all goes well, there could be as many as 300,000 bees camping out at the Waldorf this summer." -- excerpt from a recent article about the rooftop bees at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York. Read the article.

And here's David Garcelon with his video message to me, shot in February, just before the bees arrived on the rooftop of the hotel.



Greenroofs in Paris, via

Copyright: Nature Capitale – A creation by Gad Weil Photo credit : Nature Capitale/Resolute D.R.Paris surprised me last year when I visited to poke around looking for signs of urban agriculture. (Perhaps because I had no expectations, I was totally impressed by what I saw. In fact, it turned out to be the lead chapter of main part of my book on the various cities at the forefront of urban agriculture that I visited.)

First of all, Paris is where many of the elements that we use today in modern urban agriculture came the mid-19th century. (Paris' maraicher district was the primary urban gardening zone of the city...and it was so successful and productive that all over France, urban and peri-urban market gardeners are known as maraichers / maraicheres.)

Today, Paris has a very active urban beekeeping scene. The fact that pesticide use in the city limits has been illegal for over a decade might be a significant element of the success of Paris' urban bee hives. It's also not a city I associate with community gardens, but I found a fantastic one just around the corner from my friends' flat and met a wonderful community gardener, M. Griffault. Here's my post from last October about Paris' urban agriculture.

It's not just food that Parisians are growing...there are around 10 urban vineyards in right in the city, and 132 in the greater Paris metropolitain area.

Today, via a report by Alex Davies on, it seems that Paris is going to surge ahead with 80,000 square yards of green roofs and rooftop gardens by 2020.

Félicitations, Paris!



London's Capital Bee Campaign

(With thanks to Calgary food activist Paul Hughes for tweeting the link to this campaign.)While many cities in North America (including my own in Edmonton, Alberta) make it illegal for city dwellers to keep beehives in their residential yards, this is what the Mayor of London is doing.

The Capital Bee campaign, sponsored by the Mayor of London, has recently unveiled a new PSA campaign designed by Satchi that encourages Londoners to plant bee-friendly plants and not use chemical pesticides on them, to assist London beekeepers and their bees. It is no wonder that London has such a thriving urban beekeeping community. It is thought that there are over 5000 hives in the city, putting the bee to Londoner ratio at about 30:1.

Related posts: Urban Beehives in London, UK (Feb 18, 2011)

Watch Guardian food writer Tim Hayward interview urban beekeper Steve Benbow in this on-line story with video.


Urban Beehives in London, UK

OK, something lighter than the GMO discussion today...

When I was in London, I tried desperately to get an interview with the beekeeper from Fortnum & Mason, a posh grocer in a posh part of London. Didn't work out, but the reason I was so keen is that London has a thriving urban beekeeping scene. There's even a bit of rivalry between London  and Paris. But if you believe the numbers being reported, London is way ahead with 5000 hives according to a 2009 video report by Guardian food writer, Tim Hayward. Paris has about one-tenth, at 400-plus hives (according to a 2010 BBC news report).

Urban beekeeping in Europe is becoming an important "bee conservation" strategy, as the wild, rural bees of Europe seem to be in steep decline. Even the managed hives in the countryside are struggling, while urban bees are thriving. Urban beekeeping might be an important cornerstone of rebuilding damaged food ecosystems in the future.

Check out the great video of Tim Hayward interviewing F & M's beekeeper, Steve Benbow here.