In the Mag: The Next Big Thing

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The future couldn’t be brighter for six locals—ages 9 to 25—already turning heads for their innovation, dedication and sheer talent. Also, find out what the future holds in categories ranging from local politics and business to dining trends.

Benjamin Oppenheimer

A Boca boy generates major buzz with a honey of an idea.

If the global decline of honeybees has an end in sight, then the solution might just lie in the backyard of a third grader who attends Grandview Preparatory School in Boca.

At a time when the world has seen a rapid bee decline due to what scientists call Colony Collapse Disorder, Benjamin Oppenheimer, 9, is busy as a you-know-what, raising nearly 20,000 honeybees at his parents’ home along the Intracoastal. The idea of raising a beehive began to take root after Benjamin received sunflower seeds from his church. After planting them and seeing no fruit, he figured out that the empty hulls spoke to an absence of honeybees and lack of pollination. Benjamin began to study beekeeping; after getting his family’s permission, he brought home his first hive. As Benjamin describes it, being a beekeeper is “like being a guard. And when you get paid, you get paid with honey.”

This is no temporary pastime. Benjamin has delved headfirst into beekeeping, discovering that bee pollination accounts for the production of $15 billion worth (nearly 80 percent) of crops in the U.S. He even received his apiary license and passed a state inspection. The youngest member of the Palm Beach County Beekeepers’ Association, he joins other association members at the state fair, informing the public about the importance of bees to our ecosystem.

As Benjamin learned, as long as the hive’s entrance is pointed toward water, the bees tend to fly upward and away from his neighbors’ property. So far, no one is complaining—in fact, just the opposite. A neighbor, who says his avocado tree hasn’t produced fruit in three years, is now growing ripe avocados. To date, the son of Jeff and Missy Oppenheimer has had a handful of harvests. He uses the beeswax to create lip balm, even selling a few canisters, all to keep this agricultural activity going.

As for whether Benjamin worries about getting stung every so often, he says he’s past the initial fear.

“I used to be, but I’ve been stung twice so far, so I’m like, eh, what the heck? It’s no big deal.”