Stemilt Earns Certification in Bee Friendly Farming®
WENATCHEE, WA - Companies across the retail and fresh produce industry, like Walmart, have recently made crucial efforts to protect pollinators and their habitats to ensure the future of sustainable agriculture and the environment. Stemilt is one such company as the grower has announced that it earned its Bee Friendly Farming® (BFF) certification earlier this month through California-based Pollinator Partnership.
“Led by General Manager, Robin Graham, our team set out a couple of years ago to identify sustainable farming methods that would also work to protect the bees from colony collapse disorder and other factors harming bee populations,” stated Stemilt President West Mathison. “The Stemilt team recognized this issue and knew that bees are an essential part of growing World Famous fruit, so they took action.It was clear to the team that the BFF’s program was robust and based on solid science and the requirements to receive a certification were in line with biodiversity strategies we believe in. Certification meant an opportunity to expand bee habitats across our farming operation and join countless others in the fight to save the bees.”
In order to achieve this certification, Graham and his team at Stemilt began implementing BFF requirements across five of the grower’s ranches, according to a press release.
However, some of the key requirements for certification were already being met by Stemilt, including integrated pest management, offering clean water resources, and providing several different types of flowers.
“Stemilt had almost met the requirements when we first started the process,” explains Miles Dakin, Bee Friendly Farming Coordinator for Pollinator Partnership. “They just needed a little more guidance on plant species selection and planting locations, but they were already implementing many best management practices to support pollinators. They are a great candidate for the program, and we are excited to have them part of it. We are looking forward to watching their successes and collaborating more in the future.”
Due to the criteria of the program, the Stemilt team spent much of its time identifying, creating, and laying a seed mixture that is designed to provide natural nutrition, pollen, and flowers to the bees.
After hours of deliberation, the group was able to finalize and lay the seed down earlier this month. Once the seeds germinate later this spring, and flowers bloom, there will be hundreds of acres of pollinator habitats and wildflowers along with nesting sites for bees.
“This seeding mixture is in addition to several areas that already have wildflowers growing to promote pollinator habitat,” continued Mathison. “While most of our current pollinator rows are located at the end of the block, the team also included seeding mixture within the rows, too.”
As soon as bloom begins and habitats are established, Stemilt will begin measuring it success for the program by counting bees per square foot to gage progress.
“I know the team, myself included, is excited to see how this first year goes,” explained Mathison. “While we know there will be some trial and error, and there will be some things to figure out, I believe the program will be successful.”
Certification under the Bee Friendly Farming program falls within Stemilt’s commitment to farm sustainably as laid out in its Responsible Choice® program. The program was founded in 1989 by Stemilt Founder, Tom Mathison, and transitioned several hundred acres of conventional apples to organic.
“We know bees are a critical factor in farming and without them, it would be tough to grow World Famous fruit,” added Mathison. “We are excited to get this program off the ground so we can continue fulfilling our mission of cultivating people (and bees in this case) and delighting consumers through excellence.”
As Stemilt continues to drive forward its mission to farm sustainably, what will come next for the grower? I, for one, can’t wait to find out.