Growing Local Food – Farmers’ and Gardeners’ Best Friends
When we talk about growing local food, we should keep in mind the important role that pollinators play in our food system. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, honeybee pollination in B.C. is responsible for over $200 million per year in agricultural production. While the honeybee is the most famous pollinator, there are over 450 species of bees in BC. Other pollinators include hummingbirds, butterflies, flies, beetles, and wasps. How can we protect these creatures that are so important to our local crops?
There are several things that are impacting the health of pollinators including pesticide use, climate change and severe weather events, disappearing habit, viruses, and the Varroa mite. Honeybees can also be subjected to the stress of long journeys as they are transported for crop pollination. The 800,000 acres California almond crop requires the transportation of bees from over 26 U.S. states. Local beekeepers can only supply a third of the required pollinators. The impact of large tracts of monoculture can have a significant impact on honeybee mortality rates.
The Lower Mainland region depends heavily on the health of pollinators for many of our food crops. The region is the primary berry growing area in BC and approximately 90% of the blueberries, cranberries, and raspberries are pollinated by honeybees. With over 20,000 acres of blueberry crops grown locally, honeybees are an important part of our food system. Follow this link to “my Garden footprint.” for more information on the threats to our pollinators and measures that you can take to help.
What to Plant in Your Garden
SFU Professor, Elizabeth Elle offers the following advice for making your home pollinator-friendly.
“To make your garden a refuge for pollinators, you should aim for the following:
- Long bloom times (early spring is especially important!)
- Lots of variation in shape, size, and colour–this attracts lots of variation in pollinators
- Large patches of each kind of flowering plant–about a square meter of each, if you have space
- No pesticides, of course! And we encourage you to be forgiving of some ‘weeds’ like clover and dandelions
Consider nest sites: bee condos, places ground nesters can use, and plants with hollow stems.”
If you follow this advice you will be creating a safe environment for these creatures to thrive. This will help increase the yield of the plants in your garden and tree fruits in your neighbourhood.