Bees play an important role in all of our lives according to the Bee Conservancy. The Conservancy says that bees pollinate one in three bites of food we eat and contribute to the health and prosperity of innumerable ecosystems. But as we have been hearing since the mid-2000s, bees are in danger. The Center for Biological Diversity reports that more than half of North America’s 4,000 native bee species are in decline, with one in four species at risk of extinction.
That’s why we take bees seriously at RAFI-USA. The Burt’s Bees Foundation has supported RAFI-USA in planting native wildflowers on a number of farms including Rachel Herrick’s Slow Farm, a private regenerative former tobacco farm restoring its vitality by using holistic and historic farming techniques. We helped Rachel plant about 10 acres of wildflowers. The addition of native wildflowers adds resilience to farming systems by providing bees with a diversity of habitat and food in addition to crop pollination. RAFI-USA’s Farmers of Color Network infrastructure grants support a number of farmers who raise bees and make honey and beeswax products.
Kelli Dale, RAFI-USA’s Director of our Just Foods program, oversees our pollinator projects. Last week Kelli, along with Tahz Walker and Nikki Pressley, helped two grant recipients plant wildflower plots on their farms: Tom and Linda Savage on Allied Organic Farms and Kamal Bell on Sankofa Farms. A few years back, Kamal started the Sankofa Farms Agricultural Academy, a year-round intensive S.T.E.M.-based program. Among the farming activities, Kamal and his six students (four of whom are certified beekeepers) tend to 63 thriving bee colonies.
You don’t need to be a farmer or beekeeper to help feed and keep our busy friends hydrated. Kelli Dale suggests six simple ways to contribute to the livelihood of our bee populations:
- Plant native flowers. RAFI-USA published this Pollinator Toolkit in 2019 focused on North Carolina. The Pollinator Partnership has a handy guide for determining your native flowers by simply entering your zip code.
- Avoid using synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, and neonicotinoids in your yard and garden. Bee Protective Guide from our colleagues at Toxic NC.
- Plant bee-friendly trees in your yard. Arbor Day Foundation Guide
- Create a bee bath for bees to drink from.
- Provide bee homes or condos. Pollinator.org DIY
- Buy local honey and beeswax products. See below!
Here is a sample of farmers we work with who raise bees and/or offer honey and beeswax products:
Kamal Bell – Sankofa Farms, Efland
Carolyn Cheek – JAC Farm, Warrenton
Julius H.B. Griffin – Jewels of Health, Louisburg
Sly Hill – Hill Family Farm & Bee Healthy Honey, Whitakers
Tom and Linda Savage – Allied Organics Farm, Hurdle Mills
Samantha Winship – Mother’s Finest Farm, Winston-Salem NC
Anita Roberson – Botanical Bites & Provisions, Fredericksburg
Help the Pollinator Partnership celebrate Pollinator Week 2021. It’s a time to celebrate pollinators and spread the word about what we can do to protect them.