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This nonprofit has a sweet plan for reclaiming vacant Detroit lots

Detroit is known for the rhythms of Motown and the hum of automobile manufacturing plants. Now, one nonprofit is adding a new sound to this urban landscape: the buzzing of bees. Special correspondent Mary Ellen Geist reports on the efforts of Detroit Hives to reclaim some of the city’s vacant spaces -- while also leveraging the nutritional benefits of honey.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    And before we go tonight, a story that is all the buzz.

    Detroit is known for the rhythms of Motown and the hum of automobile plants. One nonprofit is adding a new sound to the urban landscape, buzzing bees.

    Special correspondent Mary Ellen Geist reports.

  • Mary Ellen Geist:

    Detroit is buzzing, thanks to Timothy Paule Jackson and Nicole Lindsey. Jackson and Lindsey are the founders of Detroit Hives, a nonprofit organization that is transforming Detroit's vacant spaces.

  • Timothy Paule Jackson:

    I saw an announcement where the city of Detroit is looking for residents and nonprofit organizations to take back some of these vacant lots.

  • Mary Ellen Geist:

    They considered several options, including a peacock farm and an urban campsite. But a health issue led Jackson to discover the medicinal properties of honey, and that sparked his curiosity about beekeeping.

  • Timothy Paule Jackson:

    Nicole began to see my interest. And she made a very simple suggestion. She said, how about we transform a vacant lot into a bee farm?

  • Nicole Lindsey:

    When you think about bees, they definitely don't go hand in hand with the urban environment.

  • Mary Ellen Geist:

    Detroit's 75,000 vacant lots can be problematic for humans, but they're a paradise for bees. Where there were once homes, factories and buildings, there are now community gardens, urban farms, and flowering plants, the perfect place for bees to gather the pollen they need to make honey.

  • Nicole Lindsey:

    When we think about developing our areas or our communities, we don't include nature. But since Detroit has so many vacant lots, and seems like it's becoming this rural urban type of city, we can incorporate nature-type things in our city, and they can actually thrive.

  • Mary Ellen Geist:

    Lindsey and Jackson are working to revitalize 45 vacant lots in the next five years and expand to 200 hives, making the land beneficial to Detroit's inner city residents by increasing food security.

  • Timothy Paule Jackson:

    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.

    And that's why we partner with community gardens to help provide food security.

  • Mary Ellen Geist:

    Lindsey and Jackson are also dedicated to using bees to teach conservation and sustainability to young children.

  • Nicole Lindsey:

    It gives us the opportunity to now teach our youth about nature, and actually telling them, like, hey, you should actually grow gardens in your yard, and tell your parents not to spray chemicals, so we can see more of this thriving.

  • Timothy Paule Jackson:

    I believe we measure our impact by education. To be able to give back is what it's all about.

  • Mary Ellen Geist:

    And it's about keeping Detroit buzzing about its future.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Mary Ellen Geist in Detroit, Michigan.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That is a sweet way to end the show.

    And, yes, that is a bad honey pun.

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