Pollinator habitat along a field border at a future Bee Better Certified pilot farm in Montana. Photo: Jennifer Hopwood / Xerces Society
Bee Better One Year In: Off To An Amazing Start

In 2017, the Xerces Society and Oregon Tilth unveiled Bee Better Certified, a first-of-its-kind program that recognizes and celebrates farms working to protect bees. Following a comprehensive design phase with the world’s leading pollinator scientists, we launched a program with an achievable yet science-based and rigorous set of standards. Looking back after nearly a year, we’re thrilled to report that more than 2600 acres of farmland are now certified, representing real world improved conditions on the ground for bees and other beneficial insects. Even more exciting, more than ten-thousand additional acres on many other farms are currently working toward certification!

Two of our biggest first year milestones include:

 -  Sran Family Orchards, an almond farming operation in California’s San Joaquin Valley, became our first Bee Better Certified Farm. To achieve their goal, Sran planted         nearly 24 acres of permanent pollinator habitat and over 100 acres of flowering cover crops, all in an intensively farmed region in which very little natural vegetation             remained. In addition to the habitat that Sran has installed, the farm has worked to adopt pesticide-application practices that reduce adverse impacts on pollinators. 

-  Also in the almond sector, Harris Family Farm in Chowchilla, CA joined the effort to reintroduce pollinator friendly habitat in one of the country’s most intensively farmed       landscapes, not only supporting bees with the more than 8 acres of native plant hedgerows and 20 acres of flowering cover crops they planted, but also creating an             important habitat resource for butterflies, songbirds, and other wildlife.

 

Habitat planted last fall at a future Bee Better Certified Farm in California’s San Joaquin Valley.  Photo:  Peter Allbright

The impact of Sran and Harris is setting the stage for a huge wave of additional farms that are in various stages of the certification process now. With support from a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG), Xerces is working with a diverse array of pilot farms ranging from large grain operations in Montana to small diversified vegetable farms in the Upper Midwest and a vineyard in eastern Washington. Collectively these growers are demonstrating that certification is achievable for farms of a wide range of scales and operation types. 

 

Habitat planting in progress at future Bee Better Certified farm in California’s San Joaquin Valley.  Photo:  Cameron Newell / Xerces Society

 

In concert with the farm-level certification, several of the world’s leading food manufacturers are actively working with their major suppliers to install pollinator habitat and bring their pesticide use into compliance with Bee Better Certified standards. Food products bearing the Bee Better Certified seal are on track for future release.

It’s amazing what can happen in just one year!
 

 

Written by:  Cameron Newell, Bee Better Certified Coordinator