Ag Professionals Receiving Training on Accessible Beekeeping through SARE Grant

April 25, 2024

Front Royal, VA – 

Justin Ruger, a beekeeper and founder of Accessible Beekeeping was granted a $75,589 Southern SARE Professional Development Program Grant to provide the historically underserved community of people with disabilities the knowledge and skills to participate in apiculture to increase their quality of life and independence. He uses YouTube videos and trains organizations at multiple universities and state extensions.

Justin speaking with SSARE COM Specialist DaraMonifah at the AgriAbility Conference explaining his experience being temporarily disabled that led him to apply for the SSARE grant and why the topic is so important to him.

Justin lost his ability to keep bees due to a car accident followed by a traumatic stroke that changed the trajectory of his life. Not being able to do things from his wheelchair, he figured out how to make accommodations for himself, which now benefits hundreds of others. His aunt asked him to write a children’s book to teach her grandchild about honeybees. He used his rehab to learn to draw and color on an iPad. As his arms and fine motor skills improved, he improved the book and sent it to a YouTuber who read the book to his followers. He attended a beekeeping conference and successfully started selling the books. He started his Accessible Beekeeping non-profit in March of 2022 to make beekeeping accessible to all persons.

Justin also partnered with Brian Wentz (Shippensburg University) to write an exploratory paper on accessible apiculture. The exploratory paper resulted from compiling survey responses from 502 beekeepers in the United States and how disabilities affect beekeeping for each individual. Regarding the effect of disability on successful beekeeping, 42% of respondents said they have a disability of some kind and 89% of those with a disability claim that it makes beekeeping more difficult.

One of the most useful things that helped Justin’s proposal become successful is that he used the detailed feedback received from Southern SARE grant reviewers that allowed him to not only understand why his initial proposal attempt was not rewarded, but various ways that he could improve it.

Through the use of the SSARE grant, Justin’s goal is to continue making beekeeping not only accessible but sustainable for all ages. He says that the current market is severely limited in hardware, support, and knowledge of beekeeping with disabilities. According to his website, “Accessible Beekeeping was started so that we can build a community that helps each other be successful beekeepers regardless of limitations.”

Justin Ruger speaks with onlooker at his exhibit table during the 2024 AgrAbility Conference

In March of 2024, at the National AgrAbility Conference held in Atlanta, Justin interacted with persons with disabilities and veterans. He also sold more of his books than he expected. He had previously worked with AgrAbility in Virginia Tech to put on trainings and was able to share what he knew about AgrAbility, which came into existence through the 1990 Farm Bill. The vision of AgrAbility is to enhance the quality of life for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural workers with disabilities. While the term "disability" often brings to mind conditions such as spinal cord injuries and amputations, AgrAbility addresses not only these but also many other conditions:

  • Arthritis 
  • Spinal cord injuries/paralysis
  • Back impairments
  • Amputations
  • Brain injury
  • Visual impairments
  • Hearing impairments
  • Disabling diseases
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Respiratory impairments
  • Head injury

The projected end date of Justin’s study is expected to be reported in the Fall of 2026 and will be publicly available for review in his final report. To learn more about this project and others funded by Southern SARE, visit to search all projects.

View Related SARE Grant:

Topics: Beekeeping, Bees, Farmer to Farmer, Honey, Pollination, Pollinator Habitat, Pollinator Health, Technical Assistance
Related Locations: Florida, South, Virginia