- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Visitors at the annual California Agriculture Day, held Wednesday, March 18 on the west lawn of the State Capitol, made a beeline to the California State Beekeepers' Asssociation (CSBA) booth to see the bees, pocket some honey sticks and talk bees.
Staffing the booth were five beekeepers and Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who retired last June after 38 years of service, fielded lots of questions.
Bill Cervenka of Bill Cervenka Apariies, Half Moon Bay, provided a bee observation hive. Carlin Jupe of Sacramento, secretary-treasurer of the CSBA, brought along 2000 Honey Stix containing wildflower honey, ordered from Nature's Kick, Salem, Ore.
Each honey stick contained a CSBA message:
- Honey bees are the backbone of agriculture
- They pollinate 1/3 of the human diet
- They pollinate 50 varied U.S. crops worth more than $20 billion
- They pollinate California's $2.5 billion almond production
- They produce $150 million in U.S. honey and beeswax
"I spent quite a bit of time on 'How do I keep bees in a thirty-third floor apartment with no balcony?'" Mussen related. "I sent a number of people to the Sacramento Beekeeping Supply store to find an opening in beginning beekeeping courses. I spent time explaining the bee space and how to keep purchasing wooden ware from the same supplier, so the space would not be violated."
Folks also wanted to know how the drought is impacting the bees. State Senator Jim Nielsen "wanted to know that he kicked up enough of a fuss to get agriculture a place at the water conference table. Up until then, no ag reps were desired."
Eight-year-old Sam Blincoe of Sacramento took a special interest in the bee observation hive, as Mather explained what the bee colony is all about. "He's going to become a beekeeper," she predicted.
The theme, she added, "also reflects the United Nations' declaration of 2015 as the International Year of Soils to increase awareness and understanding of the importance of soil for food security and essential ecosystem functions."
Meanwhile, California Farm Bureau Foundation president Paul Wenger issued this statement today, the first day of spring: "On this first day of spring, we celebrate the agricultural bounty of our nation and especially of California, where a unique combination of climate, soils, water and know-how allows farmers and ranchers to harvest food and farm products every day of the year. While parts of our nation continue to shiver in cold and snow, California provides, thanks to one of only five Mediterranean climates in the world. As we celebrate this bounty, we must also resolve to assure we can sustain it. As California suffers through another year of drought, we must pay particular attention to our state's ability to manage the rain and snow that does fall each winter, to sustain us through dry times. Farm Bureau will continue to press our leaders, at the local, state and national levels, to assure sustainable food production by building new water storage and better managing the entire water system, to ensure California remains the No. 1 agricultural state in the nation."