By Bridget Meigs
Owls can play a crucial role in rodent control on organic farms. Instead of traps or poison, owls are natural predators that can help control populations of rodents like meadow voles that can girdle and kill the fruit trees. Many owl species reside in forested habitat, but the North American Barn Owl is attracted to the open grasslands present in both Lancaster County, PA and Stanislaus County, CA. The FruitGuys worked with farmers in both of these regions in March to provide attractive nesting sites for these owls to support owl conservation efforts and increase organic methods of pest control.
On March 18, 2010, The FruitGuys installed an owl box at Kauffman’s Fruit Farm in Bird-in-Hand, PA. This completed our first East Coast Farm Steward project.
The Farm Steward program helps farms solve pest problems via sustainable methods. A team, including the organic orchard’s manager, Ken Kauffman, farm maintenance team Ken and Steve Weaver, and East and West coast FruitGuys Bridget, Karla, Jessica, and Sean installed the owl box, pictured here, which should encourage nesting, and consequently, decrease the presence of meadow voles. Daniel Mummert, the Southeast Wildlife Diversity Biologist for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, also joined the group and shared some fascinating information about these incredible owls and the crucial role they can play in pest control at the Kauffman’s farm. We also set up an “owl cam” to monitor the hunting skills of a pair of barn owls that currently reside in a nearby barn. Here are some images of the owls we have posted on facebook. Here is a video of us setting up the owl box on Kauffman’s Fruit Farm.
On the west coast, four owl boxes were installed on March 21, 2010, to attract Barn Owls at E & M Farm in Vernalis, CA. A crew including farmers Ed and Melissa Magee, their two children, two FruitGuys customers, and FruitGuys’ Karla and Desiree hoisted four owl boxes high thanks to Ed’s engineering skills and the crew’s strength and enthusiasm.
As of June 2011, there were four owl boxes installed on E & M farm, all inhabited by barn owls.
For more information on owls as natural predators, check out the Hungry Owl Project and for an example of an owl cam in action, check out Molly, an owl in San Marcos, CA, who is already an online star.