Many of the items that are part of the weekly Fresh Stop Market shares would not be possible without the work of bees, so it’s important for both farmers and those who support their work to promote behaviors that help keep bees healthy.
Dave Keal, who runs organic farm Field 51 Produce in Goshen, and his wife Meg Shea, who operates Dropseed Native Plant Nursery, said this area has not seen the issue with Colony Collapse Syndrome that has been in the news in recent years, but said bees are still struggling.
“They’re suffering from chemical use and there’s some things I’ve read about cellphone towers” among other issues, he said. “Nothing (definitive) that you can point to, but it’s also just degradation of habitat; bees don't have as much to feed on because people are planting things like grasses that don’t get pollinated by bees.
“In the country, it’s a little bit different because it’s more of a thing that farmers mow and don't let any flowers grow up around their soybean fields or things like that. Like I said, there is a degradation of habitat.”
Keal said diversity of species is something we should all be concerned about.
“Diversity of species is something that we need to maintain because bees are doing things that we really don’t know they’re doing,” he said. “We do know they’re doing a lot of things, like pollinating our food. Almost all squashes, all cucubrits – which are the melons, winter squashes – need to be pollinated by bees. Tomatoes, too, and anything that has a flower, it has been pollinated by a bee.”
Carson Nation, who operates Carson Nation Produce in Fisherville and Finchville, said organic practices helps promote bee health.
“We don't spray any harsh chemicals,” he said. “If we do spray any insecticides or fungicides, we like to do it early in the morning when the bees aren’t feeding.”
Nation, a sixth-generation farmer, said his family practices what they call “farmganics,” which is clean, mostly organic practices learned from and passed down through the generations.
“We try to be clean. I tell everyone that they can go to anyone of our fields, pick something and eat it there without having to wash it first,” he said. “If we grow in a clean way, we are promoting healthy bees.”
Nation and Keal both plant flowers on their farms to help bees and other wildlife.
“We have native beds in our gardening system so there is something always flowering for the bees to take advantage of,” Keal said. “They flower at different times throughout the season. You can also plant your cover crops in the winter and summer and let it go to flower, that really will help your bees as well. A good example of that is buckwheat.”
He also encouraged all farmers to refrain from mowing flowers around their fields. “That would also help birds in the winter months, there's all kinds of things it’s helping,” he said.
And planting a pollinator garden of perennials is a way for anyone in the city or suburbs to do their part for the bees and other wildlife.
“It has a bunch of plants in it that are native to Kentucky that flower at different times,” Keal said. “What you are doing is providing a nectar source for bees. You are also providing a nectar and food source for birds in the winter, butterflies for caterpillars, all kinds of things. It’s a multiple effect when you plant a pollinator garden.”
And don’t use harsh chemicals if it can be avoided. “The other thing you can do as a city person is don’t spray chemicals as much, especially if something is flowering, don’t spray around that,” Keal said. “The insects are drawn to (the flower) and if you spray that, you’re going to kill the insects, too.”