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Bee Better Certified: One Acre at a Time

By Liz Robertson, Cameron Newell, and Eric Lee-Mäder on 23 April 2021
Liz Robertson, Cameron Newell, and Eric Lee-Mäder

When we launched Bee Better Certified in 2017, our sights were set high on a large long-term goal: to move the agricultural industry towards being a safer landscape for bees and other pollinators. Large-scale change happens little by little over an extended period of time, and with each year that passes we continue to see increased interest and adoption of the program throughout the food industry.

While Bee Better focuses on farm-level practices that protect pollinators through the creation of habitat, preservation of nest sites, and protection from pesticides, our ultimate goal is for the implementation of change from the top down, to see major brands and retailers providing resources and support for farmers who are Bee Better Certified.

 

The pink blossom of a redbud tree in flower fil; the foreground, with rows of vines behind
Redbug blooms in a hedgerow planted on this Californian farm. Hedgerows bring habitat back into working landscapes, providing essential pollinators and other beneficial insects—as well as birds and other wildlife—with food and shelter. (Photo: Xerces Society / Cameron Newell.)

 

As top U.S. retailers are called upon to address their supply-chain impacts on biodiversity, Bee Better Certified is a clear solution. In one example, Walmart recently announced a Pollinator Health Strategy that includes Bee Better Certified among a select list of third party-verified certification programs (such as USDA Organic and Fair Trade) that must be adopted by their produce suppliers by 2025.

Adding to the growing portfolio of Bee Better Certified products, Silk recently unveiled its first line-up of Bee Better Certified almondmilk products available exclusively at Costco. The Bee Better Certification applies to Silk’s line of Organic SKUs sold at Costco including Original, Unsweetened and Unsweetened Vanilla products, and represents a verified effort to make almond farms better for bees. Almond farms certified to the Bee Better standard have planted habitat to provide food and shelter to bees and promote integrated pest management practices that are safer for bees.

As part of the effort to develop these products, Silk supported the installation of more than 25 miles of drought tolerant native hedgerow plants in California almond orchards. Additionally, as part of its larger support for pollinators, the brand also recently announced its ambition to have 100% of the acreage supporting the Silk almond supply applying Bee Better practices by 2025.

As new brands and retailers adopt Bee Better Certified, those who were first to adopt the program continue to expand their certified acres. Since certifying their first Bee Better acreage in 2019 at a ranch in Oregon's Willamette Valley, Agriculture Capital (AC) has gone on to expand the program to more of its blueberry holdings in both Oregon and California. Across their Oregon blueberry farms these conservation efforts have increased the number of total wild bees observed present by over 900% since 2016, and beneficial predatory insects by almost 300% over the same time. With pollination by wild bees being critical for good fruit set in their blueberries, Bee Better Certified is a vital piece of their regenerative platform and they see it as central to mitigating risk in their farm systems.

 

A bottle of vinegar lies on a table beside a bowl full of slices of peach and cherry tomatoes
The Bee Better Certified seal appears on products from vinegar to ice cream, telling the consumer that the ingredients were grown by farmers that are taking significant—and verifiable—steps to support bees. (Photo: Emily Balius.)

 

The ongoing release of new studies investigating pollinator and insect declines worldwide can be overwhelming and often leave many with a sense of hopelessness. On our team, we find hope through the increased interest from retailers, brands, and farmers worldwide that are stepping up to take meaningful action to support pollinators through the adoption of Bee Better Certified. Some might argue that these efforts are not perfect, but they are a significant and meaningful step forward in transforming agriculture, and the leading pollinator-conservation standard within our food system. 

Each seal that you see on products in stores represents brands and farmers that have committed to meeting the Bee Better Certified Production Standards and have undergone thorough inspection by our third-party certifier, Oregon Tilth. With each new certified farm, the agricultural landscape becomes that much more inhabitable for bees and other pollinators.

 

Further Reading

Learn about Bee Better Certified and how to apply.

Download Farming for Bees for practical advice about how to create habitat on farms.

Read more on our blog about Bee Better Certified.

 

Authors

Cameron manages the day-to-day operations of the Xerces Society's food industry supply chain projects in California, Oregon and Washington, coordinating with partner organizations and individual landowners to promote pollinator conservation. Cameron also coordinates Bee Better Certified, a food industry certification program managed by Xerces that works with farmers and food companies to conserve bees and other pollinators in agricultural lands.

As Pollinator Program Co-Director, Eric manages staff focused on large-scale habitat restoration, conservation biocontrol, native seed research and development, and outreach to farmers, private businesses, and government agencies. His professional background includes commercial beekeeping, native seed production, and consulting for various specialty crop industries.

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