Sunday, July 17, 2011

get growing: another reason why we farm the way we do

A recent study from Claire Kremen (UC Berkeley)  points out the impact of native bees on California crops. Her study shows that at least 1/3 of the crops in CA are pollinated by native bees and not the trucked around honeybees. Fiscal impact? Almost $12 billion per year. Yes, BILLION!

Kremen points out that honeybees are very important to the almond crop, and the almond growers bring them in to pollinate the trees.

And when she examined productivity and output of all other types of foodstuff grown in CA it turned out that orchards/growing fields/vineyards near open range cattle ranches had the greatest output. She makes the connection that the wide variety of things growing in the pastureland provides habitat for some of the 4,000 or so native bees of North America..and that these and other pollinators, sheltered in grasses, undisturbed ground nests, holes in fallen trees, brush piles, etc. share their love with all the plants in their area.

Kremen asks about the connection with eating beef from free range or pasture beef and how it helps the environment. She makes the link between the ability of all sorts of pollinators to thrive in fields and then visit vegetable and fruit plants and have a significant impact on productivity.

At Sunnyside Farm we grow lots of things: beef is our foundation, as the cattle move through our 40 paddocks they never eat everything down to the dirt. In early December they have trimmed every inch of the property nicely, including every tree in our little woods. But during the time the pollinators are active the cattle are in constant motion, as Homer moves them to a new paddock every single day, leaving pollinators plenty of time to reproduce and build their colonies. Our honeybees grow like mad as well in these conditions. We have fruit trees planted: apple, pear, peach, cherry, plum and now blueberry. all our vegetable varieties are open pollinated..meaning they need bees and such..unlike the F1 hybrids that most time eliminate the need for bees..or worse, provide with pollen from sterile plants unable to reproduce..what does that do to a tiny bee? With no pesticides, insecticides, herbicides or fungicides (organic or synthetic) used here we see and hear constant pollinator activity. Right now with cucumbers, tomatoes, melons, squash and the like inside the hoophouse it is buzzing. Literally vibrating. Scares some people, because if you are afraid of bugs it is quite freaky. But good for productivity. Homer reports hundreds of get ready, varieties of things you never heard of are on their way, thanks to the cattle eating a grass based diet.

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