Regenerative Bee Pasture
At the 2015 Northwest Farmers Union Conference, I became inspired to work with our farming and ranching friends to find the best possible "win-win-win" solutions for farmers and ranchers, and bees and beekeepers. This journey has currently led me to regenerative agriculture, and understanding that rebuilding soil is the first step to healthy bees, livestock, and people.
We are working hard to develop a low maintenance and inexpensive flower-rich "regenerative bee pasture" for ranchers to both substitute for chemical fallow, as well as to interplant in pasture for an environmentally and economically improved area for farmers and ranchers to harvest or graze. In this mix, we also hope to provide a strong nectar flow to feed bees and provide a honey crop for beekeepers.
We are utilizing farmer Gabe Brown’s five principals of regenerative agriculture (below), and posing the research question, “As we regenerate soil, will nutrient density in nectar and pollen increase?”
1. Minimize mechanical and chemical disturbance
2. Leave an “armor” on the soil surface
3. Increase plant diversity
4. Leave living roots in the ground as long as possible
5. Integrate animals and insects into the system (We’ll integrate livestock soon, we are starting with compost and a variety of other tools to mimic grazing)
The Bee Girl organization is managing and testing two pasture test plots, with the guidance of our collaborators at Eastern Washington University, Washington State University, Oregon State University (honey bee lab, and local extension), and the Jackson Soil and Water Conservation District. We are analyzing soil, pollen, and plant material chemistry, biology, and microbiology as we progress.
We aim to develop a hardy pasture mix and land management system that can rebuild soil, restore water cycles, sequester carbon, provide high levels of protein for livestock, and also abundant nectar and nutrient-rich pollen for bees.
After the research and development phase, we will create and implement educational programming for site prep, planting, irrigation, and harvest or grazing, to maximize benefits for bees, beekeepers, and farmers and ranchers. Follow our progress on Instagram and Facebook #regenerativebeepasture and #buckwheatforbees