TALLAHASSEE — Washington County’s premier beekeeper, Laurence Cutts of Chipley, received a Florida Folk Heritage Awardon Wednesday, March 20, in Tallahassee in recognition of his achievements perpetuating the traditional art of beekeeping and honey production.
Cutts is one of three people receiving a Florida Folk Heritage Award this year, said Blaine Q. Waide, state folklorist with the Bureau of Historic Preservation.
The ceremony will be held at Mission San Luis, which is located at 2100 W. Tennessee St. in Tallahassee. The Heritage Awards Ceremony starts at 6:30 p.m., and is open to the public.
“Laurence Cutts embodies the spirit of a Florida Folk Heritage Award,” Waide said. “These awards recognize outstanding folk artists for their longstanding contributions to Florida’s traditional heritage. A third-generation beekeeper, Mr. Cutts has devoted nearly 75 years to carrying on his family heritage, as well as the State of Florida’s rich beekeeping traditions.
“He has traveled worldwide to share his knowledge, expertise, and family stories about the traditional art of beekeeping. I have met nobody more deserving of this award, the highest honor of its kind in the state. Mr. Cutts has spent his lifetime promoting and perpetuating beekeeping in Florida,” Waide added.
Based on recommendations from the Florida Folklife Council, the Secretary of State confers Florida Folk Heritage Awards each year. The awards are given to outstanding folk artists and folk culture advocates who have made long-standing contributions to the folk cultural resources of the state.
Established in 1985, the program parallels the National Heritage Fellowships, according to the state Division of Historical Resources website, flheritage.com.
“Laurence is passionate about bees,” said Circuit Judge Mark Moseley in his letter supporting Cutts’ nomination for the Folk Heritage Award. “He has traveled the state, the country and the world to promote the science and traditions of bee-keeping.”
In 2012, Cutts was inducted into the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame for his distinguished career as a beekeeper.
“Laurence is an inventor, poet, song/hymn writer and story-teller,” Moseley said. “He is both a repository and ready sharer of this Florida’s rich and noble traditions. More than that, he is part of Florida’s rich and noble heritage.”
Cutts’ father was a beekeeper, and at the age of sixteen, Laurence began raising queens to sell. This grew into a business in which he produced and sold honey, and provided bees for pollination for various crops in Florida, Alabama and Georgia. Cutts worked in this business until 1985, when he accepted a position with the state of Florida overseeing the state’s apiary inspections.
During his employment with the state, the varroa mite and small hive beetle were creating major problems for the beekeepers throughout this state. Cutts was instrumental in bringing the need for research to reduce bee hive losses to the forefront. Throughout his tenure with the state, he was always accessible to the state’s beekeepers for advice and direction.
Cutts also invented and is presently in the process of marketing a new beetle trap through various bee supply companies in the United States. This trap promises to be a better deterrent for the small hive beetle.
Among his many achievements, Cutts has served as president of the Tupelo Beekeepers Association (1956-1963), president of the Florida Beekeepers Association (1956, 2003-2005) vice-president of the Apiary Inspectors of America (1991), president of Apiary inspectors of America (1992), secretary of the Florida Honey Packers Association (1958), president of the Kate Smith Elementary School P.T.A. (1970), chairman of the Honey Advisory committee Florida Farm Bureau (1977-1985), served as a member of the Agricultural Advisory Council (1977-85) and as secretary of the Honey Bee Technical Council (1986-2003).
“We don’t know of anyone who has given more to this segment of agriculture and is truly deserving of this recognition,” said George McAdams of the Bay County Farm Bureau.