On May 31st, the Slow Food Portland Convivium will hold the next event in its ongoing “Foundations of Agriculture” series. Presenters will share their knowledge about native bee populations, pollination, and integrating bees into working farms.
Despite its hard work, the bee has never garnered much attention from the general public. We all think of bees as honey suppliers and mild summertime nuisances, but until lately few people have truly considered the scope of their impact on our agricultural system. Insect pollination, including that of bees, is vital to the growth of one-third of the world’s food crop. This fact alone should long ago have earned the bee its due respect, but it wasn’t until large populations of bees began to vanish in late 2006 that the insect gained international recognition.
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), the little understood phenomenon causing hives of bees to die, has captured media coverage, spurred numerous action campaigns and worked its way into conversations around the globe. In 2007, both Haagen Dazs and Burt’s Bees launched campaigns to fund research into the causes behind hive collapse. A Google search returned a whopping 221,000 references to the phenomenon. Between the press and public concern, Colony Collapse Disorder became such a powerful buzzword that it earned an honorable mention nod from the Oxford American Dictionary’s 2007 Word of the Year contest.
And yet, for all of the focus on Colony Collapse Disorder, scientists and beekeepers have yet to reach any consensus on the source of the problem. While this presents a substantial obstacle for researchers, the myriad possible causes of colony collapse (and our shortage of knowledge about bees in general) can seem practically insurmountable to the average citizen. In some ways, the issue can feel like a real departure for members of Slow Food. We thrive on action – preserving native foods; connecting small farmers, chefs, educators and activists; and encouraging lawmakers to prioritize food security issues and agricultural reform. Coming off of the most recent Slow Food Portland event on land-use policy, many of us now feel empowered to use our voices and our energy to influence the future of the urban-rural interface. In contrast, an issue without a clear solution, like CCD, can feel paralyzing.
In the midst of this problem, perhaps our best course of action is to educate ourselves as to what bees actually do. As with anything else in the world of good, clean and fair, the path to a better appreciation for and understanding of bees and pollination begins with hearing from those who are closest to the issue. On May 31st, we have the chance to hear about bees and pollination from three different expert perspectives: a farmer, a pollinator conservationist, and a beekeeper.
Anthony and Carol Boutard, the farmers of Ayers Creek Farm, are passionate about the food that they grow and eager to share stories, traditions and recipes. Equally eager are the crowds that flock to the heirloom beans and grains, organic jams, and flavorful berries at their Hillsdale Market Stand. The Boutard’s will host the event at their 100-acre farm in Gaston, Oregon.
The Xerces Society works with landowners of all types – everyone from golf course managers to farmers – to build on efforts of habitat conservation. The Society maps and charts the status of native bees across the country and helps farmers to identify and protect beneficial habitat for pollinators. Matthew Shepard, Senior Conservation Associate, has been with the Xerces Society since 1999 and works to protect pollinator insects, especially native bees.
Dan Hiscoe, of Springhill Honeyworks, is the secretary of the Tualatin Valley Beekeeper’s Association, a branch of the Oregon State Beekeeper’s Association. The Association offers support and advice to a community of hobbyist beekeepers and professional apiarists. If you’re a fan of puns, make a beeline for their newsletter.
If you’d like to learn more about bees, pollination, or the presenters for the May 31st event, follow the links below. If you’d like to learn the honeybee waggle dance and wow everyone with your knowledge of bee culture and practices, look no further than this video for your instruction.
- Culinate.com interview with Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm.
- Xerces Society Website
- Oregon State Beekeepers Association Website
- PBS NOVA episode on bees
Whether or not you can make the event, be sure to check back after May 31st. We’ll post a recap of the event and discuss further resources for getting involved and learning more.