Managing Small Farms for Pollinators

On Monday I had the pleasure of attending at the California Small Farms Conference, a gathering of growers, government/non-profit/extension personnel and marketers. I was delighted to run into my favorite vendor at my local farmers market (lake Merritt) from Say Hay Farms.

Together with Katarina Ullmann, a Pollinator Conservation Specialist with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, and Ben Munger, Farm Manager of Midland School, I hosted a workshop about managing small farms for pollination. Katharina began the workshop by discussing the importance of wild bees for crop pollination (1/3 of our food is pollinator-dependent) and going over the key players (discussing the differences between wild bees groups as well as how to differentiate them from honey bees, wasps, and flies). Next I went over specific techniques to increase floral resources and nesting habitat on farms, largely drawing from an infographic series I recently published in collaboration with UC Cooperative Extension and the Berkeley Food Institute (with input from the Xerces Society). You can download the infograpics on the Resources page of this website. After this Ben shared pictures of his multi-hedgerow project, discussed the goals (to increase aesthetics on the farm while improving pollination of tomato, squash and pepper crops). He also talked about the importance of partnership- he worked with NRCS and Xerces, but also found working with a local landscaper greatly improved the installation and maintenance of hedgerows. He talked about some poor plant choices that have become weeds and escaped, as well as plants he really likes (non-cultivar plants from the native scrub surrounding the school’s property). Finally, Katharina finished up by discussing all the resources available to help for installing hedgerows, like NRCS and Xerces. It was fun to put this workshop together, hopefully we will give more in the future.

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