Did you know that one-third of the food we eat is a result of insect pollination?
It’s true! These insects—often referred to as “pollinators”—play an integral role in food production. As they buzz from plant to plant, they transfer pollen from flower to flower. For crops such as cucumbers, tomatoes, apples, pears, strawberries, and many more, pollination is necessary to ensure good fruit development. Without pollinators, poor yields and smaller fruit and vegetables are common.
But pollinators affect more than just food production. They help maintain genetic diversity and ensure adequate seed production in areas like forests, meadows, and gardens. In addition, they serve as a food source for birds, spiders, and other insects.
Unfortunately, factors such as habitat loss, improper use of insecticides, and disease have drastically lowered our pollinator populations. In places like China, the situation is considerably more dire. In certain areas of the country, pollinator levels are so low that the pear and apple orchards had to result to employing people armed with toothbrush-like-tools and a step-ladder to do the work of bees.*
How can we protect pollinators?
One of the steps that we are taking at Freedom Foods is planting a pollinator garden. It will feature a selection of native plants specifically chosen to attract and retain pollinators. By having this garden with plants that bloom throughout the entire season, pollinators have a safe and healthy habitat to live in.
Right now, the plants for the garden are in the greenhouse. We grew them from seed ourselves, alongside our flowers for our hanging baskets, and cannot wait until we can plant them out on the farm. One plant at a time, we want to help “undo” this ripple effect and keep the future of pollinators (and vegetable production) strong.
Jacquart, Jean, Appold, Gorden & Renolds. Protecting Pollinators, 2017 April. Purdue University Extension (POL-7).<https://extension.entm.purdue.edu/publications/POL-7/POL-7.html>
*It’s an interesting story, actually. Hand-pollination turned out to be more efficient from an economic standpoint, as it increased yields enough to offset the cost of employing the workers. But it doesn’t negate the fact that they lost a piece of their ecosystem that may play an important role elsewhere, and that is probably not economically sustainable for all crops. Check out this article if you’re interested in learning more.