Happy Earth Day! April 22nd marks a worldwide celebration of all the incomparable ways Earth supports and connects us, and calls for our focus to shift toward the environment. Since 1970, people around the globe have used this day to pledge attention and positive action to this lush and lovely planet of ours.

This Earth Day, Forgotten Harvest is celebrating the pollinating powerhouses responsible for that lushness, tending to our flora and helping us grow a third of our planet’s food supply: bees!

As an organization dedicated to reducing food insecurity in our communities, Forgotten Harvest knows the impact of having enough nutritious food to eat each day — and we know we could not successfully increase access to fresh, healthy produce without the help of bees and other pollinators.

Pollinators at Forgotten Harvest Farms

Each year since 2015, Forgotten Harvest Farms has been the grateful recipient of several bumble bee hives donated to us by Koppert Biological Systems.

We’re also partnered with Heffernan’s Honey and Beekeeping Supplies who came to the rescue when our previous beekeeper was no longer able to continue caring for the bees we had on-site. Forgotten Harvest Farms Volunteer Coordinator Lori Setera remembers the farm was “in dire need of assistance to winterize the bees,” so she called Heffernan’s. “They not only winterized our bees but also offered additional pollinators, a proposition we eagerly accepted.”

Heffernan’s initially placed 15 honey bee hives on the property and intends to add 35 more this spring to bring our total up to 50 — and a good thing, too, because the hundreds of thousands of flowering plants that grow across the 95 acres of Forgotten Harvest Farms would be a lot of work for just a few hives to maintain.

When asked about the importance of having additional pollinators on the farm, Farm Manager Mike Yancho noted, “It’s very easy to overwhelm the native bee population by concentrating that many flowers in one space…before we had the partnership with Koppert and Heffernan’s, we saw the effects of incomplete pollination in several of our crops, especially the squash.” According to Mike, crops are more likely to become misshapen, inedible, or even diseased without proper pollination.

Our bee hives are situated among wildflowers and crops like zucchini, watermelon, and hot peppers to help us grow the more than seven million pounds of fresh produce we’ve harvested since the farm’s opening.

And, of course, these remarkable pollinators provide us with nutritious food the world over. Callen Heffernan, owner of Heffernan’s Honey and Beekeeping Supplies, put it like this: “An overwhelming majority of our fruits and vegetable crops are pollinated by both European honey bees and native pollinators. Every time you eat a cherry or blueberry in the store, you can thank a bee for it. Without pollinators, one-third of the food in the store would disappear.”

More Than Crops

Introducing bee hives to our farm has been undeniably beneficial for our crop growth, but the presence and industry of pollinators offer other boons.

“This partnership will enhance our volunteers’ experience by allowing us to offer Heffernan’s honey for purchase,” Lori said. “Witnessing the collaborative efforts of these bees to pollinate our plants and produce flavorful, healthy honey from Forgotten Harvest Farms crops fills us with excitement and gratitude.”

We’ve also been fortunate to expand education programming for visitors at the farm and students at local schools about the significance of pollinators for our planet’s (and thus our) wellbeing.

If you haven’t been out to the farm yet or you just can’t wait to make it back to the fields this season, this Earth Day is the perfect opportunity to sign up for a volunteer day or two. Whether you’re an individual looking to soak up some sunshine while making a positive impact, or a company with your sights set on teambuilding activities that give back to your community, come join us. Together with bees, butterflies, other pollinators, and other people, we serve our community and our planet at Forgotten Harvest Farms.