A wine distributor and sommelier by trade, Noel turned his passion into a business by founding Dos Manos Apiaries in Tucson, AZ to establish natural, treatment-free beehives. He is the resident beekeeper at Miraval Resort & Spa and shares his thoughts with us about food, community, and the magic of honeybees.
AH: What gives you energy?
NP: Connection. Feeling useful. Creating rituals and events through feeding people, through sharing. Human society was created by a shared purpose of growing food. A great sadness of modern American life is that we have become disconnected from that and are working for a paycheck instead of feeling useful.
AH: What is Love?
NP: I put love into each of my plants – and that love is a component of each one, when I eat it or when anyone else is eating it. It’s an act of loving myself as well as loving my community. If you put intention into something, that intention gets reflected.
AH: Tell us about your designated charity.
NP: Heifer International. It’s based on the notion that if you give a man a fish you feed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish you feed him for a lifetime. It provides help for those who genuinely need it, but it also empowers them to create something from the initial seed you give them.
It’s a pay-it-forward model. One of the recipient’s obligations is to produce offspring from the initial investment (a cow, beehive, flock of sheep, etc.) to give to someone else in their community to start their own enterprise. It links directly to everything I am doing philosophically about creating community around the act of growing food – and it has a specific sponsorship for giving people hives for beekeeping.
AH: When do you feel a true connection to something bigger than yourself?
NP: Every time I plant a seed I have an acute awareness of every generation that planted that seed before and after, and that they will be fed by what comes from that seed. One of the most beautiful things about agriculture is the math of it. You plant one seed that turns into a thousand, and those turn into a million, and they will provide crops for the future and feed hundreds of mouths. Every time you grow something it’s so palpable – that feeling of connection to something larger, both looking forward and looking back.
AH: How do you nourish yourself?
NP: I nourish myself by getting my hands in the dirt.
AH: What does balance mean to you?
NP: The core concept of wine is balance. Different elements, that on their own might be flat or uninteresting, converge to create a larger whole when they are in the presence of other elements in balance. There’s a synergy between them when they come together in the right proportions. If you’re looking at wine, that’s really what it’s about. Not what’s on the label. It’s really about the way the different elements harmonize.
AH: Are the bees your friends?
NP: I have a profound relationship with the bees, but I don’t think you can project a human relationship onto a creature that is so different from us. I have a lot of respect for them.
You’ll never understand bees if you try to interpret their actions and behavior by what it would mean to you. I think we as humans tend to do that. Applying a human emotion to that relationship is projecting. It’s the opposite of empathy. When we empathize with another person, we have to ask what it might mean to be that person and try to see the world through their eyes. We need to do the same with bees.
AH: What piece of advice would you give your 5-year-old self?
NP: The grownups are all bluffing.