How we support bees, as they support us
Hovering over the sunflowers on Shire Farm, filling their field with colour, before gliding to the sweetly scented Clary Sage providing a soft purple hue. Over to the barley crop, essential sustenance to the farm animals over the cold winter months. Coast to the grassy fields undersown with white clover, a natural suppressant for weeds and a boost for fertility in the soil. Finally fluttering through the marigolds, where under the surface their roots are busy keeping the earth in which they grow free from pests, before returning to one of the many beehives.
As well as being a self-sustaining powerhouse of activity, bees keep our farm running. They pollinate our crops and increase yields, it is only with a thriving bee colony could we continue to farm in the way we do. Bees are the golden thread weaving the life of the biodynamic organism together.
Shire Farm is a cyclical living entity where all elements function together as a whole. In working in conscious harmony with the land we have created a fulfilling life cycle whereby all components of the farm work to renew one another. For this reason, each step of the process cannot work without the last, the vitality of the farm is reliant on all these important properties working together.
This holistic farming method draws many parallels to the collaborative nature of bees; the way they work together is so complete. You can think of a honey bee colony as a single organism, much like Shire Farm, whereby every inner component plays a fundamental role in the overall workings of its existence.
In the same way that growing biodynamic produce throughout the year helps maintain the land across the seasons, bees work tirelessly through the summer to build up stores for the cold months. In the hive there are three types of bees, each with different yet equally vital functions, all performing at different rates with a great level of flexibility. This adaptable approach to responsibilities is key, sustainability is gained through a balance of give and take; a completely reciprocal relationship. Much like in agriculture, when a mechanistic view of nature takes hold, and we force the land into our schedule through synthetic methods, we cannot expect renewable results. Instead, by applying these diverse ideas and methods, Shire Farm can grow abundant, responsible organic produce without impairing the land.
Not only do we have a lot to learn from bees, we have a lot to learn about them. Indeed, Shire Farm couldn’t exist without bees, nor could agriculture in general. Being in decline since 2006, it is understood that the unsustainable nature of food and farming systems are largely behind honeybees being in crisis.
Nestled amongst the farm are 9 hives, with a very many more on their way. And we can all do our bit, from planting bee friendly flowers to installing insect houses in the garden. Through working towards a future in which the humble bee remains an integral part of our cultivation, so too can we celebrate the wonderful intricacies of them now. Let’s give bees the respect they deserve, after all, its natural.