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Bee Better Certified Engages the Almond Industry

By Eric Lee-Mäder, Cameron Newell, Kitty Bolte, and Liz Robertson on 22 April 2019

Since starting on this journey in 2017, there are now over 4,000 acres of Bee Better Certified almond farmland in California.

With a robust set of requirements on pesticide use and the highest standards for protecting and restoring pollinator habitat of any food certification, Bee Better Certified represents a new era in biodiversity protection on farms—and what better time to celebrate this program’s growth than during Earth Week? We’ve been working hard to launch BBC within a number of different crop sectors, but almonds have always been on the top of our list due to their dependence on pollinators, the scale of the industry, and the limited pollinator habitat that exists in California’s Central Valley—one of the world’s main almond production areas, and one of the most intensively farmed landscapes on earth.

 

A landscape-scale aerial photo of California's Central Valley with pollinator meadows and hedgerows among sparse almond fields.
This mile-long wash in California’s Central Valley has been planted with drought-tolerant shrubs and wildflowers, creating eight acres of hedgerows and more than sixteen acres of meadow. (Photo: Peter Allbright / Woolf Farming)

 

For the past few years, we have been partnering with a fantastic group of forward-thinking almond producers to get their farms certified, and to get their products available in the marketplace. The results of these efforts have thus far been a great success. Since starting on this journey in 2017, there are now over 4,000 acres of Bee Better Certified almond farmland in California. New habitat installed under BBC guidelines includes over 25 miles of hedgerow plantings. Additionally, there are several thousand acres of habitat being prepared for Bee Better certification.

Working with these large-scale producers has given us the opportunity to get lots of habitat on the ground, fast. With growing bodies of evidence that insect and pollinator populations are in jeopardy, we feel that urgent action is critical.

 

Xerces staff and almond growers standing in an orchard with small blue flowers as cover crops, underfoot.
Kitty Bolte, Pollinator Habitat Specialist with the Xerces Society, presents during the Bee Better Certified field day on April 10, 2019 at Erdman Family Farms, a Bee Better Certified operation in Arbuckle, CA. (Photo: Xerces Society / Eric Lee-Mäder)

 

To share these results with the broader community — including California almond producers, USDA staff, local conservation agencies, and members of the food industry, media, and the general public — we held our first BBC Field Day at the newly certified Erdman Family Farms in Arbuckle, California, on April 10th, 2019.

With more than 20 people present, the field day included BBC staff presentations on the following topics, including field tours of flowering cover crops and permanent habitat areas:

  • Overview of Bee Better Requirements and Certification Process, by Cameron Newell of Bee Better Certified / The Xerces Society.
  • Bee Better Habitat Requirements, by Kitty Bolte and Jessa Kay-Cruz of Bee Better Certified / The Xerces Society.
  • Field Examples of Permanent Habitat, by Jessa Kay Cruz.

We were thrilled to have several guest speakers join us for the event, to discuss the following topics:

  • Benefits of Habitat to Farming Systems, by Dani Lightle, UCCE Orchard Systems Advisor, Glenn County, and Sequoia Williams, Junior Research Specialist, Gaudin Lab at UC Davis.
  • A Grower Perspective on Habitat, by our Field Day hosts, Pat and Kim Gallagher of Erdman Family Farms.
  • Cost-Share programs available to Farmers to Install Habitat, by Liz Harper, Executive Director, Colusa RCD, and Wendy Krehbiel, District Conservationist, Colusa NRCS.

 

Xerces staff and almond growers walking in a line through pollinator meadow with orange and purple flowers.
Participants examine permanent habitat on Erdman Family Farms, a Bee Better Certified operation in Arbuckle, CA, during a field day on April 10th, 2019. (Photo: Xerces Society / Liz Robertson)

 

In the months ahead, we will be working with the food industry to bring the first products made with BBC almonds to supermarket shelves. This will be a huge milestone for the program, giving producers and consumers the opportunity to support products and ingredients that are grown in ways that support bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects. In the meantime, we are also continuing our collaboration with grain, fruit, and vegetable producers who are also working to certify their farms.

All of this work is made possible through a great partnership with BBC’s national third-party certifier Oregon Tilth, the USDA NRCS, which has provided core funding through the CIG program, and through individual Xerces members and supporters who have helped us work on transformative food systems and conservation initiatives through generous donations.

 

A field of vivid red-orange California poppies and small daisy-like purple flowers..

Pollinator habitat, including vibrantly orange California poppies, blooms at Erdman Family Farm in Arbuckle, California. (Photo: Xerces Society / Eric Lee-Mäder)

 

Additional Resources

Check out all of our Earth Week content!

To learn more about Bee Better Certified Production Standards and the certification, visit the Document Center on our website or email [email protected].

Learn more about the Xerces Society’s Pollinator Conservation Program.

 

Authors

Cameron manages the day-to-day operations of the Xerces Society's food industry supply chain projects in California, Oregon and Washington, coordinating with partner organizations and individual landowners to promote pollinator conservation. Cameron also coordinates Bee Better Certified, a food industry certification program managed by Xerces that works with farmers and food companies to conserve bees and other pollinators in agricultural lands.

As Pollinator Program Co-Director, Eric manages staff focused on large-scale habitat restoration, conservation biocontrol, native seed research and development, and outreach to farmers, private businesses, and government agencies. His professional background includes commercial beekeeping, native seed production, and consulting for various specialty crop industries.

Kitty supports pollinator conservation projects on farms in the western U.S. by offering technical assistance to farmers on the design, implementation, and management of pollinator habitat. She has experience with the on-the-ground work required to create habitat as well as with plant selection and materials sourcing.

Liz is the Outreach Coordinator and Bee Better Certified Administrator for the Xerces Society. Outside of work, she is on the Board of Directors at the People's Food Co-op. Prior to joining the Xerces Society, Liz worked as a field biologist studying breeding waterbirds in the San Francisco Bay, followed by several years working in the organic food industry, and spent a year traveling and working as a volunteer on organic farms. Originally from San Francisco, CA, Liz holds a bachelor's of science in environmental studies with a minor in biology from San Jose State University.

 

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