Alumni Named on List of Indiana Movers & Shakers
Note: Kate was involved in the show choir and drama departments at DHS.
DeKalb grad makes Indy ‘movers’ list
INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Star’s new list of “movers and shakers of Indianapolis” includes a DeKalb High School graduate at No. 7 — only one notch below Gov. Mike Pence. “I still don’t know how I got on the list,” Kate Franzman said about the story published Monday. The Indianapolis Star’s article describes Franzman as “the founder of Bee Public, an organization that promotes beekeeping, sustainability and urban farming.”
How Franzman came to fit that description might be as improbable as her selection for the list alongside her city’s rich and powerful citizens. Franzman graduated from DeKalb High School in 2003, a month after playing the lead role of Maria in the school’s production of “West Side Story.” She headed east to Penn State University to earn a degree in journalism. Returning to Indiana, she landed a job with what she describes as a “hip, funky ad agency” in the capital city. It came with great pay and benefits, she said, but also with high stress and a plenty of time behind a desk. Franzman said her journalistic curiosity led to an interest in urban farming and sustainability — and the importance of bees.
As she learned more and compared her new passion to advertising, Franzman said, “I sort of popped awake and said. ‘I don’t want this’” to her job. “I decided to leave that to jump into this urban farming world, because that’s where I wanted to be.” Franzman already had started Bee Public as a blog to show people “the connection between what they eat and pollination and bee decline,” she said. Bee Public grew, involving her in public speaking and teaching classes about bees. Two summers ago, Franzman landed an apprenticeship with Growing Places Indy, a nonprofit organization “with a mission to cultivate the culture of urban agriculture and healthy lifestyles,” its website says.
Soon afterward came a grant to create a U-pick vegetable farm and manage it, which grew into Franzman’s full-time career at Growing Places Indy. At one-third of an acre, the farm site at a neighborhood center northeast of downtown Indianapolis ranks as the largest of seven “microfarms” run by Growing Places Indy, including one on the roof of a new hospital.
Franzman also manages restaurant sales for the organization. As nonprofits go, Growing Places Indy manages to be highly self-sufficient, selling its “beyond organic” produce to some two dozen local restaurants as well as to the public. Using a greenhouse, Growing Places Indy stays in business year-round, and Franzman delivers produce to restaurants twice a week even in winter. She’s also keeping watch on around 10,000 bees in a hive she tends a few blocks from her home at a Growing Places Indy farm site. Last year, she said, “I had five hives going into the winter, and they all died. It was a really terrible winter to be a first-season beekeeper.”
Franzman used an online fundraising campaign to purchase new bees for 2014. “The response was overwhelming,” she said. She was able to replenish her own bees and buy bees for two other farmers. Going further as a voice for the bees, Franzman is encouraging Indianapolis to join other cities that have stopped using pesticides that harm bees in public places. “What started out as kind of like a hobby … turned into more of a calling,” Franzman said about the new career that has brought her so much public attention this week. “I realized it was important, and I had to do something important — something that really does create change.”