Spring Valley Student Farm’s Apiary and Promoting Pollinator Health
At Spring Valley Student Farm much of our focus is on agroecology and promoting a sustainable view and practice of agriculture. In addition to our efforts to produce vegetables for UConn’s dining halls, Bistro, and UConn Farm Fresh market, we also serve as an outdoor classroom, educating students at the university and the public on ecologically sound methods of agriculture.
One means by which we practice agriculture sustainably is by encouraging the visitation of pollinators to our farm. Pollinators are an essential component of agriculture, as they serve as the means by which plants are pollinated and produce fruiting bodies. Some examples of vegetables that require pollination for cultivation are cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, and peas - but that’s just a few examples. The majority of the crops we harvest require pollination for cultivation. So, without pollinators, the act of pollinating many agricultural crops would be a grueling task, involving human workers going from the male flower of one plant, collecting pollen, and transferring that pollen to the female flower of another plant, which would require days and days of work. Evidently, we owe a lot to our pollinator friends.
One example of how we at Spring Valley promote the pollination of our vegetable plants is by keeping honey bees at our farm. Currently, our apiary houses six active beehives located toward the back of the farm. From various viewpoints it is advantageous to keep honey bees, one being the production of honey. Our honey, dubbed “UConn Gold,” can be found in recipes of foods found around various dining units at the university, as well as at our weekly Farmer’s Market on Fairfield Way during the summer months and early autumn. We love our honey that the bees give us, but that’s not the main reason we keep bees at the farm. Our primary motivation for keeping the bees, as you can probably guess, is to ensure successful pollination at the farm. The honey bees are a huge help in this endeavor, but they’re not the only ones!
Our Earth is home to about 20,000 different species of bees, with the European Honey bee, Apis Mellifera, being just one of that massive number. Many other species of bees help out as well, such as various mason bees, bumblebees, and solitary bees. And the assistance doesn’t stop there - in addition to those 20,000 bee species, there are roughly 200,000 species of animals which pollinate flowers, including birds, bats, small mammals, beetles, butterflies, moths, and flies.
By keeping honey bees at Spring Valley we seek to ensure the pollination of our crops, but we, humanity, can’t stop with the honey bees. In order to maintain a future of sound ecology for the earth, we must care about all of the Earth’s pollinators. We owe them all a great debt, so let’s get out there and serve them well.