Flickr/Josh James

Farm

Farmers can bee better. We know pollinators are in trouble. And groups like the Xerces Society (the largest and oldest pollinator conservation organization in the world) have been working to support and expand their populations. But, since so much of the land is not in public hands, it is critical to reach out to the private farmers and ranchers making individual land management decisions.

“Agricultural producers can make relatively simple tweaks on working lands that benefit bees.”

In many cases, it can simply be a matter of convincing them to plant and protect small areas that are literally “marginal”: field edges that can be dedicated to wildflowers, and flowering hedgerows.

Now, General Mills and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have funded a 5-year, $4 million program with the Society to provide technical assistance to these landowners so that such habitats are maintained. “Agricultural producers can make relatively simple tweaks on working lands that benefit bees, butterflies and other pollinators while improving the operation as a whole,” said Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) chief Jason Weller in a press release.

The program will be sending out pollination biologists to consult with farmers and to advise other conservation staff on how to protect and enlarge pollinator habitat. As we’re driving along, those lines of closely spaced shrubs and trees that border fields and roads seem negligible, but it turns out they are critical to our food supply.

Jeffrey Kittay

Jeffrey Kittay was the founder and editor of the legendary Lingua Franca magazine and a winner of the National Magazine Award. Most recently, while working in newspaper publishing in Maine, he became intrigued about what allowed some of the state’s farm-to-table businesses to succeed while others continued to struggle. He decided that he, and other such businesses from coast to coast, needed to know more about how to make The New Food Economy work.