Tucked away in the Upper Clinton Hill neighborhood of Newark, New Jersey, lies Green Oasis Village, a community garden where residents can appreciate and learn about nature. Since 2020, it has also been home to Apiary in the Sky, LLC and Marcellis Counts’ 60,000 bees.
Not all paths to success follow a traditional trajectory. In 2014, Counts ’18 followed in his sister’s footsteps by enrolling at Seton Hall, hoping to become a surgeon. But after the independence of campus life proved difficult, he made the tough decision to drop out.
Counts began working with Newark youth programs, gaining a new perspective and motivation to return to Seton Hall. Approaching his studies with more confidence, he graduated with degrees in social work and Africana studies.
Working at public radio WBGO 88.3 FM after graduation, he met a man who kept bees in his backyard. “The more research I did, the more I realized bringing beekeeping to Newark could change the landscape of the city,” he says.
Counts interviewed Tobias Fox, a leading urban farmer in Newark, who introduced him to green living. After gaining a network of environmentally conscious mentors and using skills he learned in the Pirates Launchpad summer accelerator program for student entrepreneurs, Counts transformed his ideas into a business called Arkhive, a combination of Newark and hive.
Now called Apiary in the Sky, the company transforms underutilized or vacant properties into beekeeping sites to support youth programs and training for Black and brown communities while it brings racial and socioeconomic diversity to the industry. The work is not without its challenges — there are high financial expectations in urban agriculture, and bee life faces global threats.
“Although there are beekeepers all over the world, the overall industry is behind due to things like climate change or the introduction of pesticides that drastically reduce bee populations,” Counts explains, noting that he is committed to protecting bees in an all-natural way.
Counts wants Apiary in the Sky to gain B Corporation certification as a socially and environmentally sound company and would love to add aquaponics and vertical indoor farming to his facility. “I think having my own honey store would be pretty legit, too,” he adds.
But at the heart of his dreams is a commitment to “injecting love” into his hometown. “There are tons of amazing people in cities like Newark that are often neglected. I want people to be proud of who they are, and where they come from because we all have beauty within us.”
By Shanice Casimiro