As much of the country battles extreme weather and climate events, with the west facing the most severe drought in modern history, wild farming continues to play a pivotal role in climate solutions. When given a chance, nature can be a profound ally both in providing pest control services and in the fight against climate change. We were heartened this month to see that congress passed a historic climate change bill that includes funding to support climate-friendly agriculture practices. We share more information about the benefits of the bill below.
To wrap up our Role of Birds on the Farm Course, we are holding a peer-to-peer information sharing meeting on August 31. We invite anyone who has participated in at least one lesson of the course to share and hear from others about successes and challenges in attracting beneficial birds to the farm. In addition, we have packaged the 10 recorded lessons into a self-certification online course that agricultural professionals and growers can take at their leisure.
We also share a PBS video that highlights the work of one of our partners who is looking at what Barn Owls eat in order to better determine how they are helping farms in Napa and beyond. We also highlight details on two studies that demonstrate the benefits of incorporating wild habitat on farms and a success story for farmland waterways that features a WFA board member who owns and operates Fresh Run Farm in Bolinas, CA.
WFA has some exciting plans for this fall, including more field days and videos. We look forward to sharing this work in the coming months. Enjoy!
Peer-to-Peer Info Sharing Meeting and Self-Certification Course
We are excited to offer a Peer-to-Peer Information Sharing session on August 31 at 11am PT. Agriculture professionals will get to know their peers, farmers hear from other farmers and gardeners will share their stories, too. The open discussion will focus on success stories of birds on farms but also on the barriers you see to supporting birds in your profession or on your farm or garden. We hope you will join us!
We are also pleased to announce that our Role of Birds on the Farm Course is now available as a self-certification course. Take the free course at your own pace to learn how you can attract and support beneficial birds on farms as pest control allies. If you attended the live classes or have watched one or more lesson recordings, you can also fill out the self-certification.
Policy Update: Historic Climate Change Bill Passes
Last month, we shared that congress was considering a bill that included investments to help farmers and ranchers adopt conservation practices to build climate resilience. We were encouraged this month to see that the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 has passed! Within the bill, money is set aside for nature-based climate solutions, including about $20 billion for agricultural conservation.
While those numbers pale in comparison to other big-ticket items, many environmental advocates know that such investments are critical in giving the nation a better shot at hitting long-term climate goals, and serve as a reminder that taking care of the land has added benefits to wildlife and human health.
“It’s historic, without a doubt,” said Tom Cors, director of North America policy and government relations at the Nature Conservancy. He called new funding to protect forests and boost climate-friendly agriculture practices a “once-in-a-generation investment.”
Barn Owl Table Manners
Earlier this summer, we co-hosted a field day at Grgich Hills Estate Winery. One of the speakers, Laura Echávez from Cal Poly Humboldt, is featured in a new PBS Deep Look video. The video explores the digestive systems of Barn Owls and highlights work being done to study Barn Owls in Napa Valley vineyards. You’ll get to see Laura dissect an owl pellet!
Great Tits Nesting in Apple Orchards Prefer Foraging in Organic Orchards and Hedgerows
Great tits are insectivorous birds that feed mainly on caterpillars during the breeding season. They offer high pest control potential in apple orchards. Providing nest boxes is a tool we recommend for increasing ecological pest control, and we are happy to see a new study support that recommendation. Researchers radio-tracked female great tits nesting in organic and conventional orchards. They found that females from organic orchards foraged mostly in the orchard and didn’t travel much. Females from conventional orchards foraged mostly outside the orchard. Plus, nestling survival was lower and fledgling numbers lower in conventional orchards. They conclude that nest boxes in organic, but not in conventional orchards, support pest control.
Nature-Friendly Farming Boosts Biodiversity, Crop Yields —10-Year Study Reveals
According to the findings of a 10-year study from the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, nature-friendly farming is a win-win for biodiversity and crop yields. In the longest-running study of its kind, scientists were able to increase the populations of wildlife needed for agricultural production, including pollinators and crop pest predators. They discovered that reducing the amount of land for agriculture and transitioning it into wild habitat increased wildlife numbers while overall crop yields were preserved, and even improved for some crops. We are excited to see another study supporting our vision for wild farming! This is more evidence that farm biodiversity can be increased without lowering yields.
Fresh Run Farm Helps Support the Return of Salmon to Pine Creek Gulch
WFA Board Member Peter Martinelli and his farm, Fresh Run Farm, are helping restore coho salmon in Pine Gulch Creek. With the largest counted number of young coho salmon in more than 20 years, the endangered fish may be returning to their former stronghold.
Conditions at Pine Gulch Creek have improved as part of a partnership between local farmers and the Marin Resource Conservation District. Under the program, three farms agreed to forgo their summer water diversions from the creek beginning in 2018. In return, the farmers were given permission to store water in four ponds during the more flush winter months. The extra water in the creek benefits young rearing coho when flows can drop to dangerously low levels in dry years.
Growing up seeing coho in the creek as a child, Peter has always wanted to see them come back in robust numbers. “I’m hoping it’s the foundation of building a run back here.”