Many of you might know that Boltz to Nutz Farm is an official Plant for Pollinators partner of the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden and it is a vital part of our overall mission in creating a biodiverse ecosystem. Why? Bees, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds, and many other insects are vital to a healthy environment but equally important is that these pollinators help produce about one third of our food worldwide. That is one of every three bites we eat. And their populations are in decline due to pesticide/herbicide use, habitat loss, disease, climate change and many other factors.
At our farm, we carve out space for pollinator gardens. Throughout the property, we maintain native species such as ironweed, goldenrod and milkweed to attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies. We also allow native grasses to grow unfettered in a variety of locations on the farm and solitary bee houses to provide habitat for them. In our vegetable and herb gardens, we plant pollinator friendly plants like sunflowers, cosmos, columbine, purple coneflower as well as herbs like dill and fennel. Many of the herbs and flowers we plant also serve to repel insects that we don’t want around like mosquitoes and squash bugs; that is an extra bonus! When you come to visit, you will see a vibrant abundance of pollinators.
What else do we do to promote the health and wellbeing of our pollinators?
We do not use herbicides such as Round Up. I personally consider their use as a major health concern of our modern society. At the farm, we use vinegar, manual removal and flames when we need to get rid of a bothersome plant. At B2N we do not use pesticides either. We use scent traps for some insects but mostly rely on predator insects such as ladybugs, assassin bugs, praying mantis and more and keeping pollinator gardens on the property keeps the predator insects happy too.
What do we get out of it other than beautiful flowers and stunning pollinators?
A LOT. First, pollinator presence is a sign of a healthy ecosystem. When populations of bees, moths and butterflies decline it is a sign of something out of balance or worse like the presence of toxins or invasive species. A thriving community of pollinators tells me that the ecosystem here is doing pretty well. Another benefit of these little guys is that they work hard at pollinating our vegetables and fruits. There would be no squash or blackberries, no tomatoes or peppers, no apples or pears without them. We don’t grow chocolate or coffee but we do consume a lot of both and without pollinators, those would be gone. Pollinators are also part of the food chain for the ecosystem for birds, predator insects, snakes, turtles and frogs. Another benefit to us? At least for me, I can’t help but smile and find joy in watching the variety of pollinators in action. I can honestly watch a Monarch butterfly on milkweed or the solitary bees on sunflowers for hours. It is a soothing, mesmerizing way to spend some time on a beautiful day.
My final point is that, as a chemist, I believe that food is medicine.
How that food is grown and consumed makes a difference to our bodies. When we started this adventure at Boltz to Nutz, we chose to be stewards of the land and all who live on it – including pollinators. Growing our produce, hemp and hops using biodiverse techniques is better for the environment, better for pollinators, better for the animals and just plain better for all of us. We can make a difference in our own ways and while this little farm might not change the world, we can impact our little swath of it and hope that others continue to spread our mission. How can you do that? Plant some native species for a pollinator. Don’t buy the herbicides. See the beauty that is around us all the time.