Anna and Doug Jones-Crabtree are first generation organic farmers who followed their vision and passion to northern Montana. They grow over 5,000 acres of heirloom grains and pulses in complex rotations that build the soils without the need for fertilizers. Over 20% of their farmland is dedicated to habitat.
Between their fields, the Jones-Crabtrees have planted 20-30 foot wide permanent pollinator prairies filled with native wildflowers. These strips of habitat not only bolster pollinator populations, but also fulfill a number of other key functions: the habitat also support natural enemies of crop pest that aid in pest control efforts, provides a buffer against high winds, and help reduce erosion. These benefits are critical to maintain productive fields in the harsh plains environment where the farm is located. Complementing the strips of prairie plants between their crop fields, the Jones-Crabtrees maintain large expanses of Conservation Reserve Program land that have been seeded with flowering native plants and forage legumes.
In addition to their own extensive cover crop practices, Vilicus farms is also participating in a project sponsored through a Conservation Innovation Grant to trial flowering cover crop mixes that help growers meet the temporary habitat requirements of the Bee Better Certified Production Standards.
Vilicus Farms practices conservation tillage. Though they use tilling as a tool, they also use green mature cover crops to suppress weeds, reduce erosion and enhance soil fertility without disturbing the soil. This practice helps ensure that bees nesting within crop fields are protected from disturbance.
Vilicus Farms is currently assessing whether the habitat they already have meets the Bee Better Certified habitat criteria using the Bee Better Certified Farm Assessment. If they need additional habitat, they plan to plant it in fall 2017 and spring 2018.