If you’ve ever heard the expression “busy as a bee” and wondered where it came from, consider this: bees and other pollinators are necessary for 75% of global food crops. Yet a United Nations report released in February 2016 notes that approximately 40% of the Earth’s pollinators now face extinction. That’s more than just cause for concern—it’s an urgent call-to-action to save the industrious creatures who help put food on our tables.
Worldwide, pollination “services”—chiefly by bees—are valued at $219 billion per year. Both our food supply and the robust economy it creates are in jeopardy, though, with the world’s bee population dwindling at an alarming rate. Some of the factors contributing to the demise of bees are difficult to resolve, such as the spread of honey bee diseases facilitated by the long-distance movement of hives for crop pollination. Other factors can be addressed, though—especially the lack of habitat for bees. Based on global studies conducted over the past decade, scientists now confirm that restoring wildflower strips and hedgerows for bees on farms is one of the most effective strategies to reverse the declining population. Research also demonstrates that when enough of this habitat is present on farms, all of the adjacent crops can be fully pollinated by resident populations of wild bees, eliminating the need for managed hives.
Fighting for Bees and Bee Habitats
Cascadian Farm has been sustaining the pollinator population by avoiding synthetic pesticides and building habitats for bees. These bee-friendly practices reflect the company’s longstanding commitment to organic farming, even before “organic” was certified by the USDA.
“In our collective conscience, in a really primal way, we know we can’t afford to lose bees…so what’s going on?….The bottom line is, bees dying reflects a flowerless landscape and a dysfunctional food system.” – Dr. Marla Spivak, University of Minnesota Bee Lab
That commitment can be traced to Gene Kahn, the founder of Cascadian Farm, who began as an idealistic 24-year old grad-school dropout from Chicago who just wanted to make a difference in the world. Inspired by reading “Silent Spring” and “Diet For A Small Planet”, Gene recognized the delicate balance between nature and humans and wanted to go back to the land and farm in a way that would not harm the natural beauty of the earth or her inhabitants. So he set out to farm organically on a little stretch of land next to the Skagit River in the Cascade Mountains of Washington.
Since 1972, Cascadian Farm has grown beyond that little stretch of land to be recognized as a pioneer in converting conventional farms to organic. As part of its sustaining commitment to organic farming, Cascadian Farm supports research into bee health, building bee habitats and underwriting bee-friendly almond farming practices in California. Through purchases of Buzz Crunch Honey Almond Cereal (and their bee-friendlier donation codes on all cereal and snacks packages in all retailers), it has already donated more than $200,000 to the University of Minnesota Bee Lab and The Xerces Society (a leading nonprofit pollinator and wildlife conservation organization). By 2020, Cascadian Farm promises to plant pollinator habitats on every one of its supplier farms, including its home farm which 40+ years later remains rooted in organic values.
Intensifying the Fight
Cascadian Farm has been working on pollinator habitats since 2013, but knew it wanted to do more and turned to its parent General Mills to accelerate the work. “General Mills has been aware of the decline in native bees and honey bees due to diseases and viruses, as well as the decline in their habitat,” notes Tom Rabaey, principal scientist in crop biosciences at General Mills. Keeping bees healthy is a priority for General Mills, which is why it proactively funds pollinator research to better understand why bees are in decline, invests to conserve and expand bee habitats and works with suppliers to improve the health and effectiveness of bees.
General Mills and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) have partnered with The Xerces Society to restore large areas of habitat for pollinators on farms nationwide. Through this partnership, dollars invested by General Mills are matched 1 to 1 by NRCS, effectively doubling the impact of both partners. It’s all part of the overall commitment to pollinator protection by General Mills—the largest of its kind by any corporation in the world, through which over 5 trillion flower seeds will be planted. Learn more here.
Let’s Preserve and Protect Our Pollinators
Consumers of conscience can join the movement and collectively help pollinators and their habitats flourish. It’s simple. It’s satisfying. Here’s how:
- Plant a bee-friendly garden of wildflowers that bloom from spring through fall
- Protect and provide bee nests and caterpillar host plants
- Avoid using pesticides, especially insecticides
- Be an advocate for pollinators and their habitats with your neighbors and friends (real and virtual)
- Support the work of the Xerces Society by signing the Pollinator Protection Pledge at www.xerces.org/pollinatorprotectionpledge.
For more information on how you can help save the bees, visit bee-friendlier.com.