If you are a customer at one of the farmers’ markets we attend, you may have noticed this sign at our stall. We are a Certified Bee Friendly Farm. In fact, we were the first Atlantic Canadian farm to certify as bee friendly. So, what does that mean? Well, it means that, in addition to providing humans with food, we make sure that our farm provides bees (and other pollinators) with a safe food source (we never spray our crops with pesticides), as well as safe habitats and water sources. The bees that we are doing this for include our own honeybees (I doubt they would appreciate my possessive tone if they could read this…they definitely are their own caretakers!) as well as many different species of native bees.
There are a number of crops we grow on the farm that we NEED bees to pollinate. These include most of our zucchini, cucumber, and winter squash varieties (I say most because we do grow a few that do not require pollination) as well as our apples and wild blueberries.
We have some crops that we grow for purposes other than the bees that the bees love as well. For example, buckwheat is a crop we grow as a green manure/cover crop. It smothers weeds, provides the soil with a nice shady cover when vegetables aren’t planted there, and provides organic matter and nutrients back to the soil once it’s tilled in. We grow buckwheat as a crop for our soil. However, the bees are enamored with it. When buckwheat is in bloom, the plants sound like they are buzzing because there are so many bees in it. The bees also love our herbs when they flower. We grow them for human food but when sage, thyme, oregano, mint, dill, or cilantro are flowering, the bees are happy! Many of the herbs we grow as medicine are well-liked by the bees: sacred basil, catnip, lavender….
Then we have the crops that we grow just for the bees. Borage is a big one, especially for the bumblebees though we see a lot of honeybees on them too. We also plant patches of sunflowers, calendula, flowering dill, fennel, and others as insectary strips. Trees are great crops for bees too: we planted Linden trees this year for our bees.
We also have things growing around the farm that we didn’t plant but we make sure to keep around for the bees. These include thistles (not in the fields though!) and goldenrod.
I would definitely encourage other farmers to certify their farms as Bee Friendly, and if you are a home gardener you can certify your garden as Bee Friendly as well! And then you can buy a sign like ours (that says garden instead of farm) to hang in your garden. It’s definitely a good conversation piece and helps others become aware that bees have needs too.
If you want more info on what it means to be a Bee Friendly Farm, here is an article on Bee Friendly Farming that mentions us.