In this Issue
With increasing daylight, we are illuminating opportunities for you to learn more about our and other’s work of how to bring nature back to the farm.
We first outline the three All Things Avian Virtual Field Days we are hosting in February and March, and hope you will join us for one (or all)! We also are excited to offer an Organic Biodiversity Webinar with a live Q&A, and an updated Handbook that aims to help organic certifiers be better prepared to inspect for and verify biodiversity.
We highlight research giving us insight into how growers think–many may be more likely to adopt wildlife-friendly practices if they understand which species can be beneficial–something WFA has been helping to do for years. Likewise, we share Dr. Claire Kremen’s thoughts on how we can redesign our agricultural landscapes to maintain their productivity while promoting biodiversity, with hedgerows and prairie strips woven into that fabric.
While we don’t shy away from sharing the dire straits insects are in, we also promote eight actions we can take to help turn this around. Lastly, we share an upbeat Farmer’s Almanac, that includes a written piece by WFA. We hope you enjoy this enewsletter!
WFA All Things Avian Virtual Field Days
Our three All Things Avian Virtual Field Days are showcasing innovative farmers and practices that support beneficial bird habitat. This spring we are visiting a Central Coast farm that produces vegetables and flowers, a North Coast vineyard and a Sacramento Valley ranch with nut and field crops.
Each field day will host several speakers including a farmer, avian researchers and conservationists. All three events are free but you must register to join.
The farms hosting our field days include:
February 19th, Blue Heron Farms - With 32 nest boxes that support a multitude of Tree Swallows and Western Bluebirds, Blue Heron Farm is an oasis for birds, as the name implies. Every spring, pairs of these smaller birds begin scouting for their ideal box as they hunt pest insects in the air and on the ground.
March 10th, Medlock Ames Vineyard - At Bell Mountain Ranch, Barn Owls are encouraged with nest boxes, and hawks with perches, making rodents much less of a problem. Western Bluebirds' nest boxes were installed with the intention of keeping pest Sharpshooter numbers down.
March 31st, Davis Ranches - Davis Ranches has designed and installed several miles of hedgerows as corridors to allow safe passage and refuge for birds and other wildlife. These corridors support pest control by birds, by placing the habitat close to the crops.
Even though the National Organic Program (NOP) requires biodiversity, growers benefit from it and consumers expect it, the NOP did not clarify what that means until they published their guidance (we initially wrote) in 2016. This has led to disparities in on-farm biodiversity strategy and certifier oversight, resulting in an unfair playing field for growers and certifiers.
To address this concern, we are hosting a webinar and live Q&A on February 23 - How Can and Why Should Certifiers Address the NOP Requirements for Biodiversity? This session focuses on the importance of biodiversity for organic growers, biodiversity disparities, tools that certifiers are using to ensure that farmers are in compliance, and farmer strategies for maintaining and improving biodiversity.
To also help with this issue, we recently updated our Positive Indicators and Red Flags for organic inspectors and certifiers that outlines what to look for when inspecting organic farms for biodiversity measures.
By Olivia Smith, et al.
Growers may be more likely to adopt wildlife-friendly practices if they perceive that beneficial species are present and conservation actions are successful. At the same time, a farm's landscape and regional context may influence whether biodiversity, including wild birds, are likely to provide ecosystem services or disservices. Here, across two Bird Conservation Regions in the western USA, researchers assessed a feedback loop that links growers' attitudes towards birds, farming practices, and bird assemblages' hypothesized impacts. To do so, researchers paired a grower questionnaire survey, bird point count surveys, and farm management and landscape classifications. They found that growers generally exhibited more positive attitudes towards raptors than songbirds and allies (e.g., flycatchers, woodpeckers, hummingbirds).
Ecological Intensification and Diversification Approaches to Maintain Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Food Production in a Changing World
By Claire Kremen
How do we redesign agricultural landscapes to maintain their productivity and profitability, while promoting rather than eradicating biodiversity, and regenerating rather than undermining the ecological processes that sustain food production and are vital for a liveable planet? Ecological intensification harnesses ecological processes to increase food production per area through management processes that often diversify croplands to support beneficial organisms supplying these services.
Scientists Decry Death by 1,000 Cuts for World’s Insects
By Seth Borenstein
The world’s vital insect kingdom is undergoing “death by a thousand cuts,” the world’s top bug experts said.
Climate change, insecticides, herbicides, light pollution, invasive species and changes in agriculture and land use are causing Earth to lose probably 1% to 2% of its insects each year, said University of Connecticut entomologist David Wagner, lead author in the special package of 12 studies written by 56 scientists from around the globe.
The problem, sometimes called the insect apocalypse, is like a jigsaw puzzle. And scientists say they still don’t have all the pieces, so they have trouble grasping its enormity and complexity and getting the world to notice and do something.
By Akito Y. Kawaharaa, Lawrence E. Reeves, Jesse R. Barbere and Scott H. Black
Insects constitute the vast majority of known animal species and are ubiquitous across terrestrial ecosystems, playing key ecological roles. As prey, they are critical to the survival of countless other species, including the majority of bats, birds, and freshwater fishes. As herbivores, predators, and parasites, they are major determinants of the distribution and abundance of innumerable plants and animals. The majority of flowering plants, the dominant component of most terrestrial ecosystems, depend on insects for pollination and hence reproduction. As consumers of waste products, insects are essential to the recycling of nutrients.
Wild Farm Alliance Featured in Greenhorns Latest Farmer's Almanac
The New Farmer’s Almanac, Vol V is an antidote to the repeating story of helplessness in the face of climo-politico-econo-corona-chaos. In these pages, dozens of contributing writers and artists, including Wild Farm Alliance, report from the seas, the borders, the woods, the fields, and the hives. Farmers, poets, grocers, gardeners, architects, activists, agitators—all join forces to re-vision the future of food systems and land use. This is our Grand Land Plan.
The New Farmer’s Almanac is a large-scale inquiry both visual and literary. Along with words, readers will find field maps, farm comics, photo essays, scores for restoration, illustrations from the archives, and dozens of other curiosities. Join us in exploring principles and strategies for just, adaptive, resourceful, and responsive land use for all.