Blugold to spend year promoting honey, beekeeping industry

| Judy Berthiaume

A Blugold will be creating a buzz around beekeeping as she spends the next year traveling the United States educating people about the critical role honeybees and pollination play in society.

As the 2019 American Honey Queen, Hannah Sjostrom, a junior nursing major from Maiden Rock, will serve as an ambassador for the American Beekeeping Federation.

“I will be traveling from coast to coast promoting the honey and beekeeping industry,” says Sjostrom. “In this role, I will be promoting the honey and beekeeping industry through appearances, presentations, media interviews and other promotional events.”

Events will include things like honey cooking demonstrations, school presentations and visits to 4-H clubs, fairs, government officials and farmers markets.

Through her appearances and presentations, Sjostrom hopes to help more people understand that honeybees and honeybee pollination are a crucial part of society, Sjostrom says, noting that one-third of the food most people eat needs honeybee pollination, with 80 percent depending on honeybees.

“From rural towns to the busy cities, honeybee pollination connects our diverse society,” Sjostrom says.

A third-generation beekeeper, Sjostrom is following in the footsteps of her father and grandfather.

“What started as a 4-H project for my father has expanded into a family business managing around 200 hives,” says Sjostrom. “My goal is to continue to expand the family business. I loved growing up in the industry. I was always intrigued by the importance the honeybees have, not only in my life, but in all of society.”

The knowledge she gained about honeybees and beekeeping from her family’s business prepared her to compete for and succeed in her role as a national representative for the American Beekeeping Federation, says Sjostrom, who was the 2018 Wisconsin Honey Queen.

To earn the national title, Sjostrom competed in a weeklong job interview process at the American Beekeeping Federation Convention. During the interviews, she was evaluated on her beekeeping knowledge and her communication skills, she says.

Her passion for beekeeping was inspired by her family, as was her interest in pursuing a career in health care, Sjostrom says.

She was an undeclared freshman studying at another university when she got word that her grandmother was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

“Through helping take care of her and interacting with all the nurses that cared for her, I realized I wanted to help people and give them hope the way my Grandma's nurses did that for her,” Sjostrom says. “Watching what my Grandma went through and the nurses that helped her inspired me to transfer to UW-Eau Claire after my freshman year and follow the path of nursing. I plan to spend a majority of my nursing career in the oncology unit.”

At UW-Eau Claire, she’s found opportunities to embrace and pursue multiple passions, including her passion for honeybees and for nursing.

“UW-Eau Claire helped me realize I don't want my life to be filled with one direct path, but instead incorporate many ‘ands’ along the way,” Sjostrom says. “For me, that means I am figuring out my path in life by incorporating nursing and beekeeping.”

The experiences and skills she will gain as an ambassador for the beekeeping industry will likely make her a better nurse someday because it will help her further develop many skills that are important in health care, Sjostrom says.

For example, she will learn to adapt to new and constantly changing situations, learn to interact with a variety people of varying ages and backgrounds, and manage her time so she can meet her many commitments.

“The skills that I have the potential to develop in the next year are endless,” Sjostrom says.

As the national representative, Sjostrom will work with another national representative of the organization to share honey product demonstrations with at least a million people in person and through social media channels.

She also will give at least 25 presentations to 4-H groups across the country, and create three educational resources related to medicinal uses of honey.

During the spring semester, Sjostrom adjusted her course schedule so all her classes meet in the middle of the week, creating long weekends for her to travel for her ambassador work.

In the fall, when her duties as honeybee royalty are at their peak, she will take a semester break from her university studies.

UW-Eau Claire administrators have been supportive of her commitment to promoting honeybees and beekeeping, an agriculture niche that has gained attention in recent years as concerns have been raised about the health of honeybees, Sjostrom says.

Currently, Sjostrom isn’t slated to give any presentations at UW-Eau Claire during her yearlong reign, but she’d love to see one added to her schedule, she says.

Photo caption: Nursing major Hannah Sjostrom will travel the country promoting honeybees and beekeeping as an ambassador for the American Beekeeping Federation.