Can you imagine a world without chocolate? Cocoa beans are fully dependent on pollination to produce, meaning we would be faced with a not-so-sweet reality if our busiest friends were to disappear.
Bees are industrious creatures. Hardworking, energetic, diligent, and responsible for pollinating 75% of the food we eat. But their population is sharply declining due to pesticide use, habitat loss, poor nutrition and disease. In short: no bees, no food.
Farmers understand the importance of pollinators to increase yield, improve farm productivity and contribute an impressive $235 to $577 billion (U.S.) to global food production annually. So how are farmers using their knowledge of the land to boost pollinator populations?
Regenerative agriculture—a set of farming practices that improve soil health, increase biodiversity, retain water, decrease erosion and lessen the dependence on chemical inputs—offers a promising solution to help bring back bees.
For Lead Landscaper of Persephone Brewing and their Certified Bee-Friendly Farm, Melissa Smith, regenerative farming is the golden ticket to supporting “the most important living being on the planet.”
To celebrate World Bee Day, we sat down with Melissa to learn more about the meaningful work her team is doing to create a world where bees can thrive (while producing tasty beer!).
I studied biology and ecology and I’ve worked hard to become a decent grower and steward of the land I tend. Our farm at Persephone is a little more than 11 acres and has a diverse set of crops, including a market garden and field vegetables; apples for cider; raspberries and blueberries; two fields of cover crops like buckwheat, rye and barley; and, of course lots of flowering and pollen options for the bees!
Bees are endangered and I’m inclined to agree that they are “the most important living being on the planet” as declared by the EarthWatch Institute. We’ve seen estimates that for crops, like melons and cocoa beans, farm yields would decrease by 90%without pollinators. And importantly, pollinators play a critical role in the health of our ecosystem, beyond simply serving our food chain.
The symbiotic, mutually beneficial relationship between pollinators and farms is a no-brainer. Underpinning our farms viability not to mention human survivability are the tiny workhorses of our complex ecological systems that we need to support.
As Canada’s only farm-based certified B Corp brewery, we’ve gone one step further to back the bees by becoming a Bee-Friendly Certified farm.
What’s more, our farm is a demonstration of what sustainable, albeit small-scale farming, can be. We have thousands of people coming through our farm weekly and feel that everyone should experience farms with pollinators.
Regenerative farming has the potential to build resilient farm systems by restoring biodiversity to the landscape. Adding biodiversity to our food production system provides habitat for the many different species of pollinators that all contribute to their niche in the food web. Regenerative practices ensure we have natural pollination services for many different types of plants, providing long term food security and economic stability in our farming systems.
To track our progress, we use technology such as the traceability report by Muddy Boots and we can’t wait for Terramera’s soil testing technology to provide us accurate and low-cost insights on our soil’s health.
We’ve been making positive, incremental changes on our property to preserve and protect pollinators and verify our efforts through Pollinator Partnership’s Bee-Friendly Certification. Here’s how:
- Zero pesticides,
- Maintaining bodies of water year-round,
- Flowering field/property edges,
- Keeping undisturbed piles of wood for habitat,
- Diverse cropping rotations,
- Being conscious of which landscaping, flowers, trees and bushes, are bee-friendly
- Providing nectar and pollen sources for as long into the season as possible
- We have an amazing beekeeper, Kathleen
We regularly encourage folks to check out the Pollinator Partnership which provides resources for farms as well as any backyard gardener to support bees and other pollinators. However, you can start by planting hedgerows, which is dense vegetation like perennial grasses, shrubs, and small trees, along the edges of the field. They serve as a windbreak, add biodiversity and create habitat and travel paths for beneficial insects and other wildlife as well as increasing carbon storage in biomass and soils.
Our Pollinator Pilsner is made from fully traceable barley malt, the hops are Certified Organic and the honey is local and sustainably grown. We’re trying to connect our customers to bee-friendly farmers so that everyone in the supply chain can contribute to saving the bees.
The Persephone Pale Ale never does me wrong as it has a great aroma and it’s full of flavour. To switch things up, I like our Sours or our slightly salty Kelp Gose.
Life is sweeter with bees. Join the conversation at #WorldBeeDay and learn more about how we can support pollinators.