Business owner feels city’s sting
By ANDREW MCGINN
SCRANTON — Cail Calder returned home from holiday travels Jan. 2 and thought his beekeeping business on Stanton Street had been looted by thieves.
Gone, he said, were hundreds of boxes used in the collection of his Bee Mindful honey, not to mention 1,900 pounds of honey that had yet to be processed.
His first call was to the sheriff’s office to file a theft report.
Calder eventually learned the city of Scranton had taken action, in his absence, to abate what it considered a nuisance property.
“Just the monetary loss on the honey alone is enough to put me out of business,” Calder said, still in shock. “They just shut down a business in rural Iowa.”
Scranton Mayor Cole Gustoff is unapologetic about the city’s recent push to clean up the town, lumping Calder’s property on Stanton Street in with three particularly “bad properties.”
“He had months, years, to clean up the property and never did,” Gustoff told The Jefferson Herald.
The action — crews the day after Christmas reportedly dumped honey supers and other items into rolloff containers — has prompted Calder to question what the city of Scranton knows about his business.
His property is zoned commercial.
The grassy area targeted by the city is used as a sort of way station for supers — the boxes used to collect honey — destined for fields in need of pollinators.
Calder currently has honey bees in Arkansas, California and various places around the county.
A notice to Calder dated Nov. 5 from Carroll-based Region 12 Council of Governments on behalf of the city of Scranton cited, among other things that needed to be removed from sight, “multiple piles of broken or abandoned beekeeping boxes.”
“They weren’t abandoned, and they certainly weren’t broken,” Calder said.
“They even dug up landscaping that I’d done,” he added, referring to a “living fence” of buckwheat, sunflowers and wildflowers that he was growing with pollinators in mind.
Calder said he thought he had a hearing on the matter scheduled for the Jan. 14 Scranton city council meeting, but Gustoff said Calder’s chance for a hearing had already passed with a final notice dated Dec. 18.
“He missed the hearing because he didn’t care,” Gustoff said.
Gustoff said the city contracts with Region 12 to perform code enforcement.
“We treat everyone the same, and are in no way singling anyone out,” he said. “This is just the beginning on abatements, and will continue to be done in a timely and efficient manner.”
Calder was the subject of a Page 1 profile last summer in The Jefferson Herald about the importance of honey bees and the environmental stressors affecting both them and their keepers.
Honey bees are directly or indirectly tied to one-third of all the food we eat, with managed honey bees adding at least $15 billion in value annually to American agriculture, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“If I can’t recoup my losses, I’m out of business,” Calder said. “I’ll have to start over somewhere where they’re a little more user-friendly.”
A fourth-generation Greene Countian and a regular at the Greene County Farmers’ Market, Calder opened Bee Mindful in a former Allis-Chalmers dealership — a bare gravel lot at the time behind Scranton’s library.
Beekeeping, Calder said, has alternated between legal and illegal in Scranton since he moved in.
“The smaller the town,” Calder told the Herald this past summer, “the tougher the politics.”
The city of Jefferson, however, followed Scranton’s lead and made beekeeping legal within the city.
Beekeeping returned to being illegal in Scranton more than two years ago, according to Gustoff.
“His abatement had nothing to do with bees, or honey,” Gustoff said.