What's life like on the farm?
If you're looking for something to do on Saturday, Aug. 4, the Pleasants Valley Agriculture Association (PVAA) of Vacaville is hosting its first-ever Open Farm Day 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The event, free admission and open to the public, is an opportunity for small farm owners of Solano County in Vacaville to showcase what they do. Visitors also will be able to shop for local produce and other goods, including everything from summer fruit and dried lavender to wine, olive oil and honey.
PVAA is a newly formed collective of farmers, agriculture and ancillary business owners located in the rural areas of Vacaville. All have a collective interest in agriculture tourism, preserving agriculture land, and cross-promoting with local businesses in Solano County.
Four farms will be open: Joyful Ranch, Soul Food Farm, Morningsun Herb Farm, and Be Love Farm.
“Open Farm Day is a great time to meet local farmers and experience life on the farm,” said Alexis Koefoed, owner of Soul Food Farm.The Joyful Ranch, a 19th century farm, is the original Pleasants family farm. Two tours, offered by Pleasants family descendent Ethel Hoskins, are scheduled: one at 10 and one at 11. Hoskins' grandfather, William Pleasants' book, Twice Across the Plains – 1849, 1856, will be available for purchase, with a portion of the proceeds going toward the Joyful Ranch non-profit organization.
Other PVAA farms that will be at the Joyful Ranch location on Saturday include
- La Borgata Winery, offering wine tastings and a plein air (outdoor) painting demonstration
- Girl on the Hill, offering lavender products for sale, as well as a free talk about lavender distillation
- Sola Bees, hosting honey tastings and a free talk about honey.
Live music and a picnic area will await visitors at Soul Food Farm. The owner, Alexis Koefoed will be offering free, 30-minute talks on chicken care. Karen Ford of Clay's Bees will discuss the benefits of local honey. Lockewood Acres also be on site. Dried lavender, olive oil, honey and produce will be available to purchase.
Morningsun Herb Farm, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in May, is a mid- sized plant nursery with a diverse selection of plants, herbs and garden gifts. Will Brazelton from Brazelton Ranch (another PVAA farm), will discuss peach tree care. Visitors also will be able to get their photos taken with the Morningsun Herb Farm donkeys from 1 to 3 p.m.
Be Love Farm is the only Open Farm Day farm not located on Pleasants Valley Road; the small, family-owned and operated farm focusing on regenerative farming techniques, is on Bucktown Lane. They will be offering “Regenerative Farm Tours” at 10 a.m. noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Be Love Farm just opened its farm store in early July. Visitors can shop for organic fruit and veggies, wine, olive oil, sunflower sprouts, and more.
A spectacular pollinator garden that's a "must-see" is Kate Frey's pollinator garden at Sonoma Cornerstone.
Kate Frey, a world-class pollinator garden designer, pollinator advocate and author who addressed the UC Davis Bee Symposium in March on "Designing Bee Friendly Gardens," has created a masterpiece. And yes, the pollinator garden is open to the public--no admission fee.
We visited the garden last Saturday and saw a pipevine swallowtail nectaring on Nepeta tuberosa, yellow-faced bumble bees sipping nectar from Stachys bullata, hummingbirds scoring nectar from salvia, and honey bees foraging on everything from Scabiosa "Fama Blue" to a native milkweed, Asclepias speciosa.
This is a happy place.
As she told the crowd at the Bee Symposium, hosted by the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology: Whether you plant them, nurture them, or walk through them, bee gardens make us happy.
Frey's sign at the Sonoma pollinator garden explains that "All the plants offer food resources of pollen and nectar for pollinators such as native bees, honey bees, hummingbirds and beneficial insects. Pollen is a protein, mineral and fat source and is primarily a larval food for bees, while nectar is composed of various sugars and is the main food for pollinators and the adult life stage of many beneficial insects. Pollinators need a continuous food source for many months of the year. This garden contains a range of plants that will bloom in succession from early spring to late fall."
Frey's sign also noted that "Pollinators all have preferred plants they feed from, and flowers cater to specific pollinators. Some flower shapes are designed to exclude unwanted pollinators. The long, constricted floral tubes of honeysuckles or many salvia exhibit their focus on hummingbirds as primary pollinators. Other flowers nectar, like coffee berry is easily accessible to all pollinators. This garden contains a wide range of plants to appear to a variety of pollinators. Over 80 percent of flowering plants require insect or animal pollination. What insects or birds do you see visiting each flower type?"
Well, let's see: bees, butterflies, and birds...Apis mellifera, Battus philenor, Bombus vosnesenskii, Papilio rutulus, Calypte anna...
"The same plants that support pollinators," Frey indicated on the sign, "also make us happy."
They do! Happiness is a pollinator garden...
The University of California, Davis, is the place to "bee" on Saturday, April 7.
There's a plant sale at the UC Davis Arboretum Nursery on Garrod Drive from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and there's an open house and plant sale at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Bee Biology Road.
And they are within several miles of one another.
At the one-acre Arboretum Nursery, you'll find what the officials are calling "an incredible selection of Arboretum All-Stars, California natives and thousands of other attractive, low-water plants perfect for creating a landscape alive with environmentally important pollinators." You'll find drought-tolerant, easy-care plants. Look for the inventory here. Members receive discounts, and you can join online, at the gate. Credit cards are accepted.
At the bee haven, operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, you're likely to find asters, California fuchsia, salvia, ceanothus, manzanita, coffeeberry and currant. Favorites include Salvia "Bee's Bliss" and Ceanothus "Valley Violet." Check out the plant list here. Payment is cash only.
As the temperatures soar to 80 degrees, and the ground warms up, the green thumbs are emerging! So are the honey bees, native bees and other pollinators...
The competition is open to all graduate students throughout the country involved in pollinator research, Luu says. Judging criteria? Objectives, methodology, results, research significance, conclusions, appearance, and presentation and interaction with the judges. The winner receives $1000, while the second-place award is $750; third place, $500; and fourth place, $250.
The poster competition is a traditional part of the daylong symposium, hosted by the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Keynote speaker is bee scientist/professor/author Tom Seeley of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., who will discuss "Darwinian Beekeeping." Seeley is the Horace White Professor in Biology, Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, where he teaches courses on animal behavior and researches the behavior and social life of honey bees. He is the author of three major books, Honeybee Ecology: A Study of Adaptation in Social Life(1985), The Wisdom of the Hive: the Social Physiology of Honey Bee Colonies (1995), and Honeybee Democracy(2010), all published by Princeton University Press. His books will be available for purchase and signing at the symposium.
The 2017 poster competition drew 14 posters throughout the country. Phillipp Brand, a graduate student in the Santiago Ramirez lab, UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology, and a member of the Population Biology Graduate Group, won the competition for his research on "The Evolution of Sex Pheromone Communication in a Pair of Sibling Species of Orchid Bees." He received $1000.
Brand, who joined the Ramirez lab in 2013, obtained his bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Dusseldorf, Germany, and then went on to pursue his master's degree there, studying the evolutionary history and the patterns of selection of olfactory receptor genes in a pair of sister lineages of euglossine bees.
"Pheromone communication has long been known to play a central role in the origin and evolution of species diversity throughout the tree of life," he wrote in the introduction on his poster. "What are the underlying genetic and molecular mechanisms that control pheromone variation and signal detection?"
Other 2017 winners were:
- Second place, $750; Jacob Peters, Harvard University, “Self-Organization of Collective Nest Ventilation by Honey Bees”
- Third place, $500; John Mola, UC Davis, “Fire-Induced Change in Flowering Phenology Benefits Bumble Bees"
- Fourth place, $250; Devon Picklum, University of Nevada, Reno, “Floral Visitation and pollen Deposition Bombus- Pollinated Dodecatheon Apinum and Pedicularis Groenlandica in the Sierra Nevada”
The fourth annual UC Davis Bee Symposium: Keeping Bees Healthy is designed for beekeepers of all experience levels, including gardeners, farmers and anyone interested in the world of pollination and bees," said Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center. "In addition to our speakers, there will be lobby displays featuring , the latest in beekeeping equipment, books, honey, plants, and much more." Registration is underway.
The conference begins with registration and a continental breakfast at 8:30 a.m., with welcomes and introductions at 9 a.m., by Amina Harris and Neal Williams, UC Davis professor of entomology and faculty co-director of the center. See more at http://honey.ucdavis.edu/events/2018-bee-symposium./span>
Take, for example, the Solano County 4-H Youth Development Program, part of the UC Cooperative Extension Program.
At the countywide annual Project Skills Day, held last Saturday, Jan. 20 at the Vaca Pena Middle School, Vacaville, scores of 4-H'ers showed what they've learned in their projects. The projects ranged from photography to pigs, from fishing to gardening, and from poinsettias to poultry.
Two involved beekeeping.
Ian Weber of the Vaca Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville, a second-year beekeeper, discussed "The Many Different Parts of a Bee Hive," explaining his project to evaluators and fielding their questions. For his efforts, Weber won a showmanship award, one of 11 youths to win the top honor. He competed in the senior division, ages 14 to 19.
Another Vaca Valley 4-H'er and beekeeper, Miriam Laffitte, entered in the junior division, ages 9-10, chose to discuss wax moths, a pest of beehives. She creatively titled her project "Wacky Wax Moths."
They are among the youths taught by beekeeper Garry Haddon Jr., the project leader. Like all the 4-H leaders, he is a volunteer who donates his time and expertise.
The 4-H program, which follows the motto, “Making the Best Better,” is open to youths ages 5 to 19. The four H's stand for head, heart, health and hands. In age-appropriate projects, they learn skills through hands-on learning in a variety of projects. To name a few: computers, leadership, woodworking, poultry, cavies, rabbits, foods and nutrition, dog care and training, and arts and crafts. They develop skills they would otherwise not attain at home or in public or private schools, Williams points out. (Access the 4-H website at http://solano4h.ucanr.edu/Get_Involved/ for more information about the Solano County program, which currently encompasses 12 clubs.)
It's quite true that 4-H'ers (I'm speaking here as an alumnus and longtime adult volunteer) learn many life skills that they would not otherwise learn at home, or in public or private schools.
And that includes keeping bees!