Consumers will soon have another label to help guide them in choosing ethical, environmentally-sound products: a certification for foods produced on bee-friendly farms. Recognizing the growing threats facing pollinators around the world—and a huge percentage of agriculture as a result—as well as increased consumer interest in combating those threats and wanting to help bees, The Xerces Society has launched Bee Better Certified.
Farmers participating in the program agree to adopt practices that provide habitat for bees and protect them from pesticides. The pillars of the program are: dedicating a minimum 5 percent of land to providing habitat—meaning abundant sources of pollen and nectar, such as hedgerows or flowering cover crops; providing nesting sites for pollinators in the form of (depending on the pollinator species) plants with pity-stems, undisturbed ground and plants butterflies can lay eggs in; and eliminating or minimizing the use of chemical pesticides.
Farmers partnering with the program grow a wide range of crops, including almonds, blueberries, apples, wine grapes, grains and a number of vegetables. The third-party certified program, the first of its kind in the world, was developed with a grant from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Oregon Tilth is providing the third-party verification to ensure transparency.
Bee Better Certified is currently working to certify 13 farms across the U.S., including both organic and conventional farms and ranging from small (15 acres) to large (more than 5,000 acres) operations. Two “pollinator pioneer” farms are among the earliest adopters, and you can expect to start seeing the seal at farmers markets and in local grocery stores in fall of 2017, and eventually on frozen foods, nut butters and nondairy beverages. The program is also working with farms that supply major brands working with commodity crops.