When Brian Stork began beekeeping, his intention was to teach his children about farming. What he had not anticipated, was the positive impact his honey would have in West Michigan.
Stork, a urologist at West Shore Urology in Muskegon, which joined Michigan Medicine’s Department of Urology last fall, began beekeeping about seven years ago. The nature of his beekeeping changed when he and his daughter were looking for a Mother’s Day gift and they walked into Patricia’s Chocolates in Grand Haven.
“My daughter and I took a bottle of honey down to Patricia’s store and asked her if she could incorporate some of it into her chocolate. So, the very first chocolates we did were for Mother’s Day for my wife,” said Stork, who is also an assistant professor of urology.
Patricia’s Chocolates, owned by Patricia Christopher, is known for the unique flavors and intricate designs of its chocolates. Since the inception of the Mother’s Day chocolates, Stork and Christopher have worked together to create other varieties of chocolate that include Stork’s honey.
“When we first started beekeeping, we enjoyed giving the honey away as gifts, especially at Christmas. Over time, however, the word got out and our honey became quite popular. People started asking if they could buy it. As we began removing more and more honey, to keep up with demand, I started to worry all this activity might be stressing the bees,” he said.
“I was really excited to work with Patricia because she can take a very small amount of honey and make a lot of chocolates. We started to think, moving forward, maybe we should just put our honey in these chocolates and support a couple of local causes our family is passionate about.”
The causes Stork mentions are two West Michigan-based charities called Reading Enables Adult Development (R.E.A.D.) and Step Up.
“R.E.A.D. is an adult literacy organization,” Stork says. “They have trouble getting the word out because people they are trying to serve can’t read. The chocolates raise money, but more than money, they raise awareness. They get people talking.”
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Step Up is a nonprofit that takes people transitioning out of foster care and provides them a new home. Stork is in charge of fundraising. Depending on the chocolate, a portion of the proceeds goes to either supporting the current women’s house, which is up and running, or it goes toward acquiring a location to create a men’s house.
“We sell three different chocolates, and you can buy them all together in one box or you can buy them individually. Then she donates a portion of the proceeds to each organization,” he said.
It is safe to say Stork’s passion has served his community in more ways than one. However, the process helps to serve him, in a way, as well.
“The whole experience grounds you in nature. Working in health care, right now, I am sitting under fluorescent lights. I have no idea what the weather is like outside. When I’m out there, I can feel the sun, feel the breeze, smell the plants, see the pollen. It connects you to nature,” he said.
What moment in the classroom stands out as the most memorable?
I vividly remember one time in organic chemistry when my lab partner and I almost, accidentally, blew the classroom up. Fortunately, we lived to tell. One of many reasons I’m not an organic chemist!
What can’t you live without?
My wife, and love of my life, Marisol. I’m pretty fond of my son and daughter as well.
Who/what inspires you?
I find myself always inspired by the underdog.
What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading “Honeybee Democracy” by Thomas D. Seeley and “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma” by Bessel van der Kolk.
What/who had the greatest impact on your career path?
I think if I didn’t grow up on a farm, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I learned a lot of good lessons on the farm.
Where is your favorite spot on campus?
I know this sounds a bit strange but, having not spent hardly any time on campus, I’d have to say the Department of Urology.