Bee friendly farming environmental imperative

By Patrick Raftis in Animals & Nature, Community, Food, People

A Harriston area organic farm recently became one of a handful of Canadian farms, and definitely the first in the Town of Minto, to achieve the distinction of being a Certified Bee Friendly Farm.
Reroot organic farm is a small, diversified farm producing local, organic and handcrafted food in the fertile soil of Wellington County. Established in 2007 by young farmer Caitlin Hall, reroot “is proud to make its home” on a 70-acre farm near Harriston. The operation grows certified organic produce, raises pastured poultry and Berkshire pork, produces free-range eggs and, for the past four years, keeps honeybees.
“As part of our commitment to steward the land that we farm, we maintain hedgerows and natural areas as habitats for our honeybees and other native bee species and grow a wide variety of fruit and vegetable crops that provide food for these important pollinators,” says Hall. “With increasing pest and disease pressure, honeybee populations are rapidly declining…a scary trend when you consider the large percentage of our food crops they pollinate,” she adds.
The plight of the honeybee only entered the wider public consciousness with the publicity over widespread incidents of “Colony Collapse Disorder” striking across North America in 2006. The term Colony Collapse Disorder was first coined in response to the 2006 epidemic, but the phenomenon has existed throughout the history of apiculture.
“The scientific consensus is that one proven way to help honey bees is by increasing access to natural forage,” states Dr. Marla Spivak, Professor of Entomology. “One major factor in the decline of all bees is lack of plant food – nectar and pollen that bees require for their nutritional health. It is absolutely critical to plan and conserve agricultural and urban landscapes to support our wildlife, including our forgotten pollinators.”
Enter farms like reroot and other property owners who provide the appropriate setting for honey bees to thrive.
California-based Partners for Sustainable Pollination (PFSP) has been promoting bee friendly environments since 2007. In February of this year, they welcomed Seeds of Diversity Canada (SoDC) as a major new ally in PFSP’s Bee Friendly Farming (BFF) initiative.
“We are thrilled that Seeds of Diversity Canada has joined with us in our campaign to encourage actions to help our precious honey bees,” said Kathy Kellison, PFSP founder and volunteer Executive Director.
The goal of the BFF initiative, launched in 2010 is to increase public awareness, recognize agricultural producers who provide forage for honey bees and other pollinators, and encourage consumers to support BFF-certified agricultural producers. BFF is an inclusive term that is intended to recognize anyone who supports bees directly or indirectly—farms, ranches, businesses, schools, local governments, nonprofits, gardeners and beekeepers.
“We are so pleased to bring this program to Canada,” said Kimberley Fellows, SoDC’s Pollination Outreach Coordinator. “It’s bee-friendly and user-friendly. We all have the ability to do something to help bees flourish, whether we live on a farm or in the city, no matter where we work and play.”
Certified growers and beekeepers are encouraged to use BFF labels and signage in their marketing and outreach efforts. Annual certification fees will be used to help support growers when planting additional bee forage. The US – Canada BFF map is at http://pfspbees/BFFMap. BFF participants also interact at
http://www.facebook.com/BeeFriendly.
“I am delighted to report there are now nearly 150 certified BFF participants spread across 30 States, and the first four from Canada,” said Kathy Lanterman, PFSP Treasurer and BFF Certification Coordinator in a February 2012 press release. “Bees don’t know borders, and neither should our efforts to help them!”
“As a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farmer, I’m excited about the education potential of this certification—both for myself and for my members,” said Angie Koch, Fertile Ground Farm, St. Agatha, Ontario. Koch was the first Canadian to self-certify. “I’m looking forward to hosting a native flower planting and pollinator education work bee at my farm this spring! I’ve already found my members to be curious and excited and am hoping many of them will get involved.”
Hall’s reroot Organic Farm is one of about 15 operations now certified under the BFF program in Canada. While the BFF program is aimed at farmers, all farmers, not necessarily just bee keepers, she says that anyone can get involved by making their property bee friendly through the Bee Friendly Gardens program. She recommends doing research on the type of follows that provide the most nectar for bees, and planting them early in the spring, when bees are starting to forage after their winter hibernation. Creating hedgerows and treed buffer zones give the bees a place to nest, she notes.
Protecting bee habitats is about a lot more than protecting the honey supply, notes Hall. The main reason she got into bee keeping is to provide a steady source of pollination for fruits and vegetables she grows on her farm.
“We would lose a lot of crops if we didn’t have bees,” she points out.

 

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