October 5, 2021
A Bountiful Honey Harvest at San Francisco Zen Center


By Tova Green

With City Center’s solar panels and Suzuki Roshi’s orchids, there are also five beehives on the 300 Page Street roof. This summer the bees have thrived. City Center’s beekeepers, Marcia Lieberman and Brett White, and volunteers who are part of Marcia’s “B team,” have harvested the hives twice and were rewarded with 300 pounds of honey. They are anticipating a third harvest this month.

In 2011, when Marcia was the gardener, she and veteran beekeeper Alan Hawkins introduced bees to City Center. Alan taught Marcia how to care for the bees and how to harvest the honey. Marcia wrote about the development of the bee program and what she has learned from the bees two years ago in a Sangha News post entitled “The Rooftops at Zen Center Are Buzzing.”

When Marcia opens a hive she always learns something. She has gathered amazing information about bees. For example, a honey bee visits 50 to 100 flowers during a collection trip. To make one pound of honey, bees tap two million flowers.

The bees are so productive in part because the beekeepers handle the hives with tremendous care. They are soft spoken and gentle with the bees. They bring water if the bees are thirsty. If the hive gets crowded, they create more space by adding a “super,” another layer, to the hive. The bees appear to feel safe and well taken care of.

Marcia recently gave a dharma talk called “Being Like a Bee,” about the shared qualities of honeybees and bodhisattvas (beings who support others to awaken). These qualities include generosity, patience, steadfastness, and skillful means – each bee has a role which contributes to the wellbeing of the hive.

The harvested honey, labeled “Bee Zen,” is for sale through SFZC’s online bookstore. Four-ounce jars of Bee Zen honey are $12 and 12-ounce jars are $20. The bookstore can ship the honey anywhere in the United States.