Pollination Canada, a project of Seeds of Diversity, is proud to announce its participation in Bee Friendly Farming
Self-certification allows you to use this logo, indicating that your agricultural practices encourage and improve pollinator health
A “Bee Friendly Farmer” is an inclusive term intended to recognize Bee Friendly ANYONE who supports bees on all scales of landscape: farms, ranches, businesses, school groups, gardeners, beekeepers, local governments, non-profit organizations, on both private and public grounds. Bee Friendly Farming (BFF) is an initiative that encourages growers to improve the health of one of our most important pollinators – the bees. You can self-certify as a Bee Friendly Farmer, which enables you to display the above BFF logo on your shingle, products, or services. Even if you are not considering self-certification at this point, you may use the resources provided by BFF to increase awareness and recognize the best management practices for bees, including both managed and native species.
The widely-reported declines of honeybees brought public attention to the issues facing both the honeybee industry and native pollinators. One common factor contributing to bee population declines, both honeybees and native bees, is nutritional stress, due to a lack of access to a wide variety of flowering plants that provide food in all growing seasons. Additionally, as land is repurposed for urbanization, or habitat is removed for monoculture crops (thousands of acres of one crop), native bees lack nesting areas.
Every third food-bite or sip that meets your lips depends on pollination. Bees, as the insect group which does a majority of the pollination work, are thus responsible for providing 30% of the crops produced in the world. Crops aside, pollinators also provide the mechanism for at least 75% of the earth’s flowering species to propagate, enabling natural diversity and providing food for much of our wildlife.
Collectively, it appears that 1) habitat loss (decreased forage and decreased nesting), 2) chemical use, 3) viruses, and 4) climatic shifts have led to the bee population declines. Additionally, it is important to note that as they become nutritionally stressed and disoriented by chemicals, their immune systems become suppressed, making them more susceptible to pests and disease.
Bees and plants have co-evolved together to achieve the most efficient pollen transfer. Thus, the use of native plants to sustain native bee populations makes a lot of sense.
Planting native species that provide nectar and pollen all season long – especially in early spring, as well as late autumn – will help to ensure that bee populations will thrive. Bee Friendly Farmers establish a minimum of 12 varieties of native plants over the growing season. The Evergreen Native Plant Database and the North American Native Plant Society Database are just two useful resources to determine which native plants will bloom best for you.
Factoring bee sensitivities to pesticide and other chemical applications is another step on the road to bee recovery. Bee Friendly Farmers either don’t use chemicals, or sparingly and prudently use them (for example, spraying at night when bees are inactive).
Becoming familiar with bee nesting habits, and adjusting agricultural practices such as mowing and tilling, will allow native bee habitats to flourish. Bee Friendly Farmers minimize tillage, as 70% of native bees nest in the ground. Many Bee Friendly Farmers will stagger cover crop mowing, so that the plants continue to provide bee forage, before the plants produce unwanted seeds.
Bee Friendly Farmers allow at least 3-6% of their total acreage to provide clean water, nesting sites and natural forage for native bees, through the use of field edges, cover crops, hedge rows, fence rows, windbreaks, set-aside acres, road and canal berms, utility easements and other features.
By completing a 7-part questionnaire at this site and paying a small annual fee, you become a self-certified Bee Friendly Farmer, which enables you to display the BFF logo. A portion of the affordable certification fee is returned to members to help support the planting of bee forage.
Alternatively, you may help rejuvenate bee populations by purchasing local produce bearing the BFF logo; planting bee beneficial native plants on your farm, in your backyard garden and on school grounds, parks and other public lands. Be aware of bees when applying pesticides (better yet, do not use them) and invite beekeepers to place their hives on your land if you have safe lands. Beekeepers can also help in two other important ways – by encouraging growers to participate in the BFF Program, and by becoming BFF-certified and displaying the BFF logo on their own websites.
While Bee Friendly Farming was launched in California, USA, it endeavours to make its registered logo recognizable throughout North America. Canadian participation of the program commenced in December 2011, through Pollination Canada, a project of Seeds of Diversity Canada.
Bee Friendly Farming was launched in late 2009 by executive director and founder of Partners for Sustainable Pollination (PFSP), Kathy Kellison. Kathy established PFSP in an effort to improve the health of honeybees in pollination services, focused primarily on identifying, increasing and enhancing bee forage in the United States. BFF was born from the idea that in order to accomplish the goals of PFSP, it was going to take more than the beekeepers, scientists, government agencies, growers and other land managers involved. To succeed in sustaining bee populations, it takes citizens from all walks of life who want to help raise public awareness about pollinator pollinator habitat needs and to encourage consumers and businesses to reward bee friendly growers and local beekeepers by purchasing farm products bearing the BFF logo. Kathy enlisted the help of the following experts in determining the criteria necessary to qualify as a Bee Friendly Farmer: Sam Droege, Mace Vaughn, Dennis vanEnglesdorp, Marla Spivak, Randy Oliver, Robbin Thorp, Karen Strickler, Gerry Miller, Jeff Anderson, Phil Giles, and Gene Brandi.
In June 2014, Partners for Sustainable Pollination dissolved, and Pollinator Partnership assumed the delivery of the Bee Friendly Farming program.
… ULTIMATELY, YOU are a BEE FRIENDLY FARMER!
Pollination Canada was introduced to the Bee Friendly Farming program when we attended the 11thNorth American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC) conference in Washington, D.C., in October 2011. The conference is an annual gathering of scientists, pollinator experts, beekeepers, officials from all levels of government, and other interested persons from Mexico, Canada and the United States. Farmer Paul Kaiser was also in attendance, a tall, friendly fellow instantly recognizable in his Australian Cowboy hat. Paul is a passionate and articulate supporter of the BFF initiative, one of the first farmers in the U.S. to certify, and he is eager to see BFF expand in North America.
Farmer Paul’s nine-acre Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operation is co-run with his wife, Elizabeth, in Sebastopol, northern California. The goal of their property, Singing Frogs Farm, is to provide a fresh variety of organic produce to their loyal customers, and to sustain local populations of native bees, in addition to their own managed honeybees.
Farmer Paul created hedgerows of perennials amongst his crops, planting hundreds of native flora (more than 2500) that flower in rotation, providing the necessary forage for bees all year long (they do not give their honeybees any supplemental feeding). A large diversity of flora keeps bees strong and healthy, in the same way that a diversity of fresh fruit and vegetables help keep humans healthy.
Singing Frogs Farm is host to native bee nests that Farmer Paul and family have installed. Farmer Paul generally mows his cover crops in thirds or sections, to allow for as much bee forage as possible from spring to winter. His no-till and no-tractor techniques cause very little ground disturbance, allowing the soil to be used for native bee habitats, as up to 70% native bees nest underground. You can see Paul in the beautiful Symphony of the Soil, an appropriate film as we celebrate International Year of Soil.
Farmer Paul’s efforts were recognized when he won the 2010 Farmer Rancher Pollinator Conservation Award, sponsored by NAPPC and the National Association of Conservation Districts. The award is part of an international effort to promote awareness about pollinators including birds, bees, bats, butterflies, and beetles that enable reproduction in more than 75% of flowering plants, or up to 1/3 of the nation's food supply.
At the time of writing, over 50 Canadian Bee Friendly Farmers have self-certified. One of those participants is Broadfork Farm, proudly owned by Shannon Jones and her partner Bryan Dyck. Shannon and Bryan grow vegetables and some fruit, including melons, strawberries, apples and low-bush blueberries, on two acres of their 15-acre property in River Hebert, Nova Scotia. Two hives of honeybees currently reside in a patch of thyme on Broadfork Farms. Shannon and Bryan are familiar with principles of biodynamics – a reverence for the natural rhythms of Mother Nature – which means that they minimize their interference in the hives, and do not use smoke on their bees. Gunther Hauk’s book Toward Saving the Honeybees is a favoured book on their shelf.
These farmers are able to avoid using pesticides on their produce, and minimize tilling and tractor use, aware of underground bee nests.
Shannon and Bryan plant insectary strips amongst their crops, which includes self-seeding annuals such as dill, fennel and marigolds. Hedgerows flank their crops, and are natural native areas that are not mowed, near waterways. They may introduce some perennials to these areas, such as lupine and globe thistle. Last year, Shannon was delighted to notice three different kinds of bees busy on one globe thistle. Permanent pathways of clover and buckwheat have been planned to weave through their land. Shannon and Bryan are also considering growing some crops for seed, providing their pollinators with even more forage.
Kahlil Gibran, the author of The Prophet, wrote that “For bees, the flower is the fountain of life. For flowers, the bee is the messenger of love.” There may be more stories of love yet to emerge from Broadfork Farm, as they hope to host “weed-dating,” in which singles gather to help clear the farm of weeds!
We invite you to browse our resources to help the bees, which in turn will help you and your own gardens and farms.
To explore the resources to help you become bee-friendly, click here
To self-certify, click here