The FruitGuys in the Dirt: A Farm Steward Story
By Amanda Pineault
On Saturday, March 12, 2011 a small contingent of FruitGuys joined Cub Scouts from Santa Rosa and participants from the Volunteer Center for Sonoma County at Gabriel Farm in Sebastopol, CA (Sonoma County).
The theme for the day was pollinators! Before we could get our hands dirty, we first got a lesson in the importance of bees and other insects from Noelle Johnson, conservation planner at the Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District (RCD), 134,000-acre district in western Sonoma County, and a lesson in agro-ecology from Rose Roberts, founder and Chief Steward of Farm Stewards, a sustainable agriculture consultancy.
Honey bee populations worldwide are declining and farmers everywhere are doing what they can to help to preserve these essential members of our food system. Habitat loss, pesticide use, and disease all contribute to the declines of bee and insect populations worldwide but as more people are made aware of these problems, conservation efforts are springing up everywhere.
At Gabriel Farm, owners Torrey and Lucy Olsen adhere to organic farming practices and have been working with Noelle and Rose on a pollinator project to increase natural plant habitats on their farm. In April 2008, The FruitGuys donated 4 beehives and 48,000 bees to Torrey and Lucy in an effort to help introduce new bee populations to the area. In March we gathered to help plant some pollinator-attracting border plants.
After going over the rules and regulations, we all set out to plant and mulch flowering shrubs and trees meant to provide year round habitat and pollen for the bees and other beneficial insects. Rose, Noelle, and Torrey had already laid the groundwork and pre-placed the plants (still in pots) at appropriate spots around the 14-acres farm of Asian pear, apple, and persimmon trees.
By the end of the day, we had planted and mulched about 500 trees that will provide habitat, nectar, and pollen to native insects and hopefully boost their declining populations. The progress of the plantings, as well as, the abundance and diversity of the insect populations will be monitored by Noelle and her staff at RCD.
We look forward to all of the bountiful fruits these pollinators will help produce. For more information about polinators and how you can get involved, visit the Pollinator Partnership website. Many thanks to FruitGuys VP of Operations Erin for the great photos.
Click here to read more about native bees and about what you can do to provide food and habitat for them in your garden.
Check out this San Francisco Chronicle story on how CA commercial honeybee populations are doing much better.