As 2017 was drawing to a close, while many people were planning to fanfare the New Year, Sran Family Orchards quietly passed a different milestone: It became the first farm to become Bee Better Certified. Gaining this certification is recognition for the Sran family’s years of unheralded dedication, and we couldn’t be happier that Sran Family Orchards is the first farm to receive this accolade.
Sran Family Orchards is based in Kerman, California, in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, one of the world’s most intensively farmed regions and a landscape that offers little in the way of habitat for pollinators. This may seem an unlikely place to be home to the first Bee Better Certified grower, but the Sran family have a long-held commitment to sustainable farming—in particular supporting the bees that are central to the success of their harvest. With roots in the 1950s as a family farm growing row crops, successive generations of the family have built the company into the largest grower of organic almonds.
Sran Family Orchards have planted miles of hedgerows that include native shrubs such as California lilac, as well as acres of flowering habitat to support bees in the almond orchards. Photo: Sran Family Orchards
Sran Family Orchards operate ten orchards in Fresno and Madera counties. Recognizing the importance of diversity in the agricultural landscape, the Sran family started on a path to make their orchards better for bees long before the launch of Bee Better Certified.
Jason Hickman and his team at Sran Family Orchards have planted miles of hedgerows, which create nearly 24 acres of permanent pollinator habitat, and 116 acres of flowering understory plantings between their rows of almond trees, carpeting the ground with flowers and extending habitat deep into the orchards to make them more hospitable to bees. Xerces conservationist Jessa Kay Cruz helped with project planning.
With the advent of Bee Better Certified, Sran Family Orchards saw an opportunity to do more to help bees. In addition to habitat, the Bee Better Certified production standards require growers to mitigate exposure of bees to pesticides through a combination of preventative pest management techniques and the elimination of high-risk pesticides.
Bee Better Certified stands out as the only food and farming pollinator conservation certification program that requires third-party inspection. Farm assessment and certification is undertaken by Oregon Tilth, a leading national nonprofit certifier for organic agriculture and products, whose team of inspectors ensure that the process is rigorous and that standards are met.
As Jason Hickman noted, this certification program assures the Sran family and their company that they were being guided by the highest standards of the best program in place for bees’ future. By being Bee Better Certified, Sran Family Orchards have one more way to lead the almond industry in the direction of a more sustainable future.