BUTLER TOWNSHIP — Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm presented their Marie S. Aull Volunteer of the Year Award to long-time Vandalia resident, Al Tuttle on Tuesday, December 8. This is Aullwood’s most prestigious award. Environmental Education Specialist Tara Pitstick presented it to Tuttle in front of 130 people at their annual volunteer recognition dinner. The award was first given in 1994. Al Tuttle is the 70th recipient the award.
According to Volunteer Coordinator, Nina Lapitan, the award is given annually to the volunteer who completes more than 2,000 volunteer hours. She said she is sure Tuttle surpassed that milestone years ago. He is one of 800 volunteers who currently help run the farm. “Our volunteers usually track their hours and I keep record of that,” Lapitan said. “Al comes and goes at will and responds almost immediately if we need him for anything. Of anyone in our volunteer core, he so richly deserved this award.”
Tuttle started keeping bees at Aullwood in 1991 under the tutelage of Charlie Fisher, a gentleman who had served at Aullwood for 20+ years before passing the baton to Tuttle. Tuttle currently oversees 6 hives in the orchard and an observation hive in the Audubon Center. He is responsible for the center’s Honey Harvest Program on Saturdays during the summer where he teaches guests about beekeeping.
Pitstick appreciates Tuttle’s soft-spoken gift for non-pretentious communication about the subject in which he specializes. “His passion for honeybees is obvious; he has so much knowledge but he’s able to teach children and adults alike,” Pitstick said. “He has even helped some people overcome their fear of bees just by patiently teaching them about how bees behave and their significance to the function of our ecosystem.”
It is no surprise that Tuttle’s favorite part of volunteering at Aullwood has been the teaching aspect. He used to instruct Spanish and French at Cambridge City Schools in Cambridge, Ohio. Bees, he says, also have a language. Movements or “dances” are used to communicate from one bee to another. He no longer teaches Spanish or French but continued beekeeping. He started the profession because of how much honey his family consumed. “We were going through about a gallon of honey every few weeks,” Tuttle said. “So I talked with the man who I was buying honey from about what it would take to keep bees. He knew someone who was getting out of it and selling all his equipment and recommended I try it.” He’s been actively involved in keeping bees ever since that time and was even licensed as a distributor for places like Fulton Farms, Healthy Alternative, and Dorothy Lane Markets.
Tuttle is part of a special set of volunteers at Aullwood that are already professionals in the field where they donate their time. According to Lapitan, the impact Tuttle has had is indelible. “I have personally learned so much from him,” Lapitan said. “I know so many others have too. It made a lot of sense to recognize him at this time and we were really excited that his entire family was able to be there to see him honored.” Tuttle and his family have been active participants at Aullwood since he began volunteering in 1991. According to Tuttle, he does not foresee resigning his post as the beekeeper at Aullwood any time in the near future.