December 13, 2019

A Detroit nonprofit is transforming vacant lots into urban bee farms

Here are three stories about renewal to inspire you as you head into the weekend.

The founders of Detroit Hives are helping to transform vacant lots in their city into urban bee farms. Photo by Damien Tupinier on Unsplash

Each week, The Renewal Project shares three stories from around the country that highlight the innovative solutions people are creating in their communities. This week we’re focusing on people who are bringing nature into cities and bringing city residents into nature. What are the innovative ideas in your hometown? Tell us at and your project could be featured in an upcoming story on The Renewal Project.

All abuzz: After seeing an announcement from the city of Detroit asking residents to help transform vacant lots, Timothy Paule Jackson and Nicole Lindsay were inspired to help. They started by turning one lot into a bee farm. From there, Jackson and Lindsay developed the idea into the nonprofit Detroit Hives. The organization focuses on the conservation of honeybees and helping the community and local youth learn the importance of bees to the environment.

Detroit Hives also partners with community gardens in order to help boost the amount of fresh, locally available produce, an important factor in the fight against food insecurity.

“A lot of times in our communities, we don’t have access to fresh organic food. Whenever you have hives near a community garden, you are guaranteed to see an increase in your yield,” Jackson told PBS NewsHour.

The nonprofit also sells honey produced on their urban bee farms, with proceeds going back to the mission. Over the next five years, the duo has plans to revitalize 45 vacant lots and expand to 200 hives.

Diving into history: Students at Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., are taking the plunge into scuba diving lessons. The new program is facilitated by Diving With a Purpose, an organization that sends divers into the ocean to catalogue and gather historical artifacts from slave shipwrecks.

Diving With a Purpose is part of a broader network of research organizations known as the Slave Wrecks Project, and is hosted by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Their goal is to provide a greater and more accurate picture of the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The organization also has a goal of recruiting more black people to dive and contribute to the research.

“You’re not just down there to dive,” said Michaela Strong, age 19, told The Washington Post. “You’re down there to record history.” Strong had previously spent the summer diving with the organization, working on shipwreck recovery and coral reef restoration projects.

Thirst for adventure: Journeying out into the great outdoors has many health benefits, but it isn’t accessible to everyone. Inventor Geoff Babb had a stroke 14 years ago, leaving him unable to walk. He still had a love for the outdoors, however. That’s why he developed a prototype for an all-terrain wheelchair, complete with handlebars and a sporty orange frame, that he’s named AdvenChair.

“We need to celebrate that we’re alive,” he told NPR, when explaining what motivates him.

The chair uses mountain bike parts instead of traditional wheelchair parts, as they’re cheaper, more durable, and better for dealing with rough terrain.

Babb and his team recently entered their prototype into a competition of new ideas for the outdoor industry held in Bend, Oregon. They won $5,000 to keep working on AdvenChair. They hope to collaborate with travel and tourism companies who offer trips catered to people with disabilities.

The Renewal Project

The Renewal Project, made possible by Allstate, tells the stories of individuals and organizations who are solving problems in their communities.