Springfield residents, library patrons get to meet ‘The Modest Beekeeper’

SPRINGFIELD, NJ — What a buzz two Springfield residents have started at their community’s public library.

The buzz is over “The Modest Beekeeper,” a documentary film Amefika Gray produced with P.J. Martin in the title role, tending to his hobby of 14 years.
Gray and Martin, former Springfield Recreation Department co-workers, combined their interests in filmmaking and beekeeping to illustrate how honey is harvested.

“We premiered the documentary on March 25,” Gray, of Springfield, told LocalSource in an interview on June 14. “This is our third time showing the film.”

Gray used a video camera to capture Martin’s beekeeping hobby in the 30-minute film that has been screened at the Springfield Public Library. In it, viewers can see the boxes the bees have “hived” and the wooden framed slides they fill with pollen to create the nectar that turns into honey. The males, they learn, mate with the queen while the females do most of the work. Martin also demonstrates how he harvests honey from his five beehives.

“The honey tastes different every time,” Martin told LocalSource in an interview on June 14. “It depends on where the bees gather their pollen. Most of the pollen comes from trees such as the black locust and poplar.”

There are about 1,000 beekeepers in the state, a majority of whom are hobbyists like Martin, who considers himself a bee “adviser” to neighbors and friends. Martin said there are only five such beekeepers in Springfield.

“I consider myself an adviser because bees can be very unpredictable,” he said. “I harvest about 300 pounds of honey each year.”

And he likes to spread the sweet harvest around the neighborhood and beyond. One member of the audience was also Martin’s customer.

“It’s delicious and tastes different every time,” Lisa Capodice of Springfield told LocalSource in an interview after the event on June 14.

“I like to support local business. Martin is amazing and informative.”
Audience members were amazed that Martin works with so many bees and doesn’t get stung more often than he does.

That’s because, he said, “Bees have an acute sense of smell. They also have facial recognition so they know me.”

Before he intrudes on the bees, Martin said, he uses smoke to calm them. The smoke replicates a fire and the bees will gorge on the honey per their survival instinct. And when he harvests the honey, he wears a bee suit for protection.

“When I first got into beekeeping, it was a joke,” Martin said. “Someone asked me what I wanted to do with my life and I said I wanted a farm and to be a beekeeper, so they bought me the book ‘Beekeeping for Dummies’ and I started my hobby by ordering bees in the mail. A friend taped me because he thought I was going to get stung a million times and was going to send it to ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos.’ ”

Martin is a former president of the Essex County Beekeepers Association and a member of Raritan Valley Beekeepers. Gray was so impressed by his friend’s hobby, he decided to put it on film.

“The filmmaking process took a total of two months,” Gray said. The editing process took a bit longer — six months, he said.

“We got amazing support from the community,” said Gray, who runs his own media company. “We didn’t know what to expect but people found a deep connection with Martin and were moved by the atmosphere of his demeanor.”