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Bees and Almonds: A Sweet History

Almond Board of California is celebrating its community by running occasional features on farmers, processors, and others who support the industry, highlighting their commitment to sustainability.1

Garber Poultry Farm was established in 1911, but in the 1960s, the hen houses began making way for almond trees. There are no chickens in sight these days but, like all California almond orchards, it buzzes to life each spring when honey bees arrive to pollinate the crop.
 
Still known by its original name, Garber Poultry Farms works with beekeeper Andy Angstrom of Silverton Apiaries who delivers hives from Oregon. Garber farm manager Sonny Johns knows how important honey bees are to the almond crop, and he follows the Almond Board’s Honey Bee Best Management Practices to keep the bees safe, and their hives healthy, during their visit to his almond orchard. Sonny keeps the lines of communication open with Andy all year round so he’s kept informed about how the bees are doing in the winter, and to make sure Andy knows what Sonny’s orchard will need for the following pollination season.
 
One of the most significant things Sonny and Andy discuss is the best way to manage the application of any necessary disease control materials in the orchard. For example, sometimes fungi needs to be carefully managed to protect the trees and the delicate flowers, which will become the almond crop, and Sonny does so in a way that will also protect Andy’s honey bees. 
 

It’s not just the almonds that benefit. Just like almonds are a nutritious snack for humans, almond pollen is very nutritious for honey bees. Hives usually do well during almond pollination season and routinely leave stronger than they arrived.2


Sonny Johns

This thorough communication between the two helps Andy maintain strong and healthy hives, while Sonny manages factors that could hurt his crop and, thanks to the bees, gets an effective pollination season that sets his almond crop up for success.
 

California Almond Sustainability Program definition: Sustainable almond farming utilizes production practices that are economically viable and are based upon scientific research, common sense and a respect for the environment, neighbors and employees. The result is a plentiful, nutritious, safe food product.
Ramesh Sagili. Assistant Professor – Apiculture, Department of Horticulture. Oregon State University