UArizona Maricopa County Cooperative Extension Receives USDA Grant for Urban Beekeeping Education

Jan. 25, 2024

The University of Arizona received a $100,000 grant from the USDA to develop a program that serves underrepresented urban farmers by teaching them to pollinate their crops through beekeeping and to diversify their income with honeybee products.


Indoor Farming greenhouse where these small-scale farmers receive hands on training.

The University of Arizona received a $100,000 grant from the USDA to develop a program that serves underrepresented urban farmers by teaching them to pollinate their crops through beekeeping and to diversify their income with honeybee products.


The University of Arizona Maricopa County Cooperative Extension (MCCE) has been awarded $100,000 through the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) and administered through the Arizona Department of Agriculture. The funding will be used to develop an educational program for small-scale, urban farmers and entrepreneurs to learn about beekeeping and honey production in the Sonoran Desert.

The training will provide participants with the skills needed to pollinate specialty crops by keeping honeybees and to generate alternative sources of income by selling bee products, all the while conserving the honeybee population.

Small-scale and urban farming refers to various types of cultivating and distributing food in urban areas as opposed to large, rural farming. Urban farming benefits cities, neighborhoods, and communities by providing direct access to fresh, locally grown vegetables, fruit, and meat products. Urban agriculture can address food deserts and improve food security and safety for city residents.


Beekeeping site at a UArizona location used for teaching the beekeeping and honey production course.

“Urban agriculture has proven to be an effective and viable substitute for conventional farming,” said Ayman Mostafa, MCCE’s interim director and leader of the new program. “Arizona’s population is increasing, and we are trying to train new farmers that can account for that growth and shift in industry that we will see in coming years.”

In addition to the MCCE running the statewide Small-Scale and Beginning Farmer Program, they recently launched the UArizona Center for Urban Smart Agriculture (CUSA).

Sharrona Moore, a program coordinator hired with funds from the SCBGP grant, is responsible for ensuring program goals are met. “My role is really about outreach—getting in touch with these farmers that have been underrepresented to get them interested in what beekeeping production can do for them,” said Moore.

“According to our need assessment survey conducted in 2022, urban farmers are often people of color and women who, as a group, have historically been underserved,” said Mostafa.

Moore, who previously ran a nonprofit farm and is a woman of color herself, said, “By offering programs like this to underserved communities, we can get them economically stable while supporting local food.”

“I feel very privileged to serve as the bridge from these communities to the university where we can make an impact on their lives,” she added.

For urban farmers, beekeeping is a critical tool for growing and pollinating crops. “Honeybee pollination is far more effective than any other method of pollination,” Mostafa said.

Although beekeeping provides an economical and effective way of pollinating crops, training is scarce and often inaccessible, making the educational opportunities provided by MCCE especially important for the state’s farming community. The training is offered at multiple UArizona campuses across the state, including in Prescott and Yuma.


Ayman Mostafa, Interim Director of UArizona's Maricopa County Cooperative Extension

In addition to pollinating crops, the honeybees in these small-scale farms will produce honey, providing another source of income for these farmers. “There is a good market for honey,” Mostafa said. “By selling the honey, our farmers can diversify their income and have greater economic security.”

The farmers are taught how to market and sell their products, both for private businesses and for selling products at local farmers' markets. “In some cases, we can give them micro-grants to jumpstart their business,” Mostafa said. “Anything we can do to help our farmers is important to us.”

“From no rain to too much rain to pests, farmers often see crops fail,” Moore said. “A farmer’s income is directly related to crop yield. This program can increase the quantity and quality of crops and create a diversified income stream through bee products so that they can protect themselves economically.”


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