Category Archives: Local food

Why You Should Care About Bees and What You Can Do to Protect Them

This is a guest post by Christy Erickson of SavingOurBees.org.

Bees aren’t annoying, buzzy pests that sting you at the pool. Bees are actually beautiful, complex creatures that we, as humans, depend on for more than many of us know. Without bees, life would be very different for you and me. It’s vital that we understand exactly how bees play a major role in our ecosystem so that we can be motivated to do everything we can to help protect their population.

Honey bees around a hiveWhy should I care about bees?

If you like to eat, you should care about the bees. It’s that simple. Since we need food to survive, it stands to reason that you should want to protect the things that make it possible for you to have said food.

Bees are one of the most important pollinators in the animal kingdom. Without bees, our pollination system would be greatly diminished. Without natural pollination, fruit and vegetable production is harmed. Without robust fruit and vegetable production, raising livestock becomes more difficult. You can see the trend here.

 “Humans depend on bees to fertilize the plants and make them a food source. Without bees, we would have reduced food sources. In fact, there are several fruits and vegetables which depend on the process of pollination to be fertilized and some of them include apples, watermelons, pears, strawberries, corn, cucumbers, almonds and tomatoes,” says The New Ecologist.

 You also have bees to thank for honey and beeswax, obviously – both of which are vital to the production of many products we all use every day. If you care about living in a world filled with trees, plants, flowers, and food – you must care about the health of our bee colonies around the globe.

How can I help protect the bees?

With bee populations in decline due to climate change, habitat destruction, and the widespread use of pesticides in commercial farming, there’s no time to waste. You can help local bee populations in a big way by making a few small lifestyle changes.

First, you should always buy local and organic when possible. Oftentimes it’s tough and cost-prohibitive, but you should make the effort to shop smarter whenever you can. Even if you can’t buy organic produce all the time, try to limit your honey purchases to smaller, local apiaries. Local beekeepers are more likely to raise their bees in an eco-friendly manner.

If you have green space at your home, you should do whatever you can to make it friendly to bees. Consider planting a fruit and vegetable garden, or even a pollinator garden. Be sure, however, to avoid the use of pesticides and herbicides for your plants and flower gardens. Instead, try natural remedies like herb spray, white vinegar, and bug-repellent crops like lavender and basil. Try to leave at least some of your backyard unkempt, as some bees like to nest in piles of brush, wood, and other natural structures. Leave a small, shallow water bath filled with landing stones for the bees. Taking these few, small steps will ensure that your yard is a place where bees can thrive.

In the end, you may need to use your voice and your wallet in the fight to protect the bees. Getting involved in conservation groups, writing your congresspeople, and signing/starting petitions can help. Buying local and organic, or sponsoring a hive is a good way to put your money where your mouth is. We don’t know what a world with fewer bees would look like exactly, but we do know that it would put a strain on our agricultural practices.

Photo Credit: Arlouk on Pixabay.com

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BHS Garden update: new fence, new plants, new people involved

Here’s a press release from the Belmont High School Belmont High School Garden and Food Justice Club.

Belmont High School — Now at the close of its second summer, the Belmont High School Garden and Food Justice Club held a ribbon cutting ceremony this past Monday, August 17th, to celebrate the garden’s success and recent improvements. In attendance were members of the community that made this project possible, including students, BHS Principal Dan Richards, and community supporters.

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At the ribbon cutting: from left to right: Maddie Carlini (student club member), Patricia Mihelich (Belmont Food Pantry), Suzanne Johannet (Belmont Food Collaborative), Ann Pan (new club leader), Olivia Cronin (former club leader), Principal Dan Richards, Laurie Graham, Carol Oulette (BHS office staff)

The student-led club founded the High School’s first vegetable garden in the spring of 2014.  With support from The Belmont Food Collaborative, the garden is a continuation of the organization’s “Community Growing” project, with the goal of providing organically-raised produce for the local Belmont Food Pantry. Community members care for several other gardens around town. The BHS Garden is cared for by students during the school year and summer and during the non-growing season the club hosts a Winter Food Drive, as well as other projects and trips.

During its first summer, the garden’s four beds hosted tomatoes, eggplant, bush beans, broccoli and beets, with seedling donations from Belmont Acres Farms. Now in its second season, the garden received a grant from The Whole Kids Foundation to finance cedar post fencing and blueberry bushes.

Some of the produce from the BHS garden

Some of the produce from the BHS garden

Many individuals have made this possible: Thanks to Principal Dan Richards and Fred Domenici, Head of Grounds, at BHS; Mike Chase of Belmont Acres Farm for seedling donations; Joan Teebagy of the Belmont Food Collaborative for writing The Whole Kids Grant; Suzanne Johannet of the Belmont Food Collaborative for her guidance and practical support; and Michael LaPierre of ML Fencing for donating the fence-installation labor.

New fence and blueberry plants at the BHS garden

New fence and blueberry plants at the BHS garden

The student founders of the club, Olivia Cronin and Maggie O’Brien, are recent graduates, and leave the garden in the able hands of four new leaders, Ammu Dinesh, Brett Koslowsky, Alena Jaeger, and Ann Pan. The club hopes to continue expanding, increasing the BHS Community’s involvement in the garden and promoting conversation about sustainable growing and food insecurity in Belmont and beyond.

BHS Garden Growing in Labor Day Heat

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Despite the heat of this past Labor Day weekend, the BHS Garden is growing well. The tomatoes are slowing down a bit, but are still plentiful, and new eggplants seem to be coming in every day. With school starting at the High School this Wednesday the garden is still in the height of late summer.

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Earlier this month the broccoli plants were picked clean of their thick green leaves by the geese who live around Clay Pit Pond. After a week or so of a skeleton-filled bed we decided to replant it, but kept one of the healthier plants out of curiosity. Now, it is growing strongly, even more so than before. Although it would’ve been nice to have a full bed of these broccoli, it was a large risk to take since it took several weeks to grow back, and either way, the beans and lettuce we planted are now coming in.

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Besides geese, it’s now safe to assume that rats have also been frequenting the garden. We found one dead in the beet bed today, although we haven’t noticed any other signs of them.

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The BHS Garden had a lot to provide for The Belmont Food Pantry last Tuesday, including tomatoes, eggplant and beets. The peppers, zucchini and some of the tomatoes were donated by Belmont Acres Farm.

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Community Growing: Garden Predators and Successful Harvests

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The BHS Garden, part of the Community Growing Project, faced its first predators earlier this month when the geese that live around nearby Claypit Pond quickly cleared out the broccoli bed. Fortunately, the majority of the plants, about fifteen heads, had already been harvested. With nearly all the leaves removed from the plants and little chance for regrowth, we decided to replant the bed. Belmont High Seniors Charlie Smith and Maggie O’Brien helped rip out the broccoli skeletons to make way for bush beans and red lettuce.   

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To prevent future predators, a fence was put around the tomato, lettuce/bean, and beet/bean beds. The eggplant in the fourth bed has been largely ignored by the geese and other animals, likely due to it’s prickly stems and leaves.

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Despite issues with predators, we were able to harvest a large amount of tomatoes and beans from both the High School and Beth El Gardens. This produce was delivered to the Belmont Food Pantry, along with lettuce, corn and squash from the Boston Area Gleaners

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Vacation Garden Campers Visit Farmer’s Market

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Last time you were at the market did you interview a farmer? Or find a fruit or vegetable that you’ve never seen at the grocery store? These kids did, as part of an interactive scavenger hunt through Watertown-based Vacation Garden School at the Church of the Good Shepard. The camp is now in its third year, and has visited the Belmont Farmer’s Market each summer. 

The 29 campers are outside most of the day, says Reverend and camp director Amy McCreath, and activities focus on appreciating the wonders of nature in the world around them. The kids are from Watertown, Belmont, and Waltham and range from three-and-a-half to eleven years of age. Each day the older kids, called “Junior Counselors”, take a field trip to places like The Mt. Auburn Cemetery or The Charles River. 

At the Farmer’s Market the campers were split into groups to explore. Each group interviewed a farmer, asking questions like “What insects help/hurt your plants?” or “Why should people buy food from you rather than Walmart or Shaws?”. They were also given some money to pick out a new and interesting food to share with the rest of the group. 

McCreath, whose daughters participate in the camp, describes the annual trip as “a highlight”, where the campers have the chance to try new foods and learn about the sources of what they eat. “I love seeing kids dancing around, reporting on ‘how awesome’ fennel or raw corn or Japanese turnips are!” 

Vacation Garden Campers Visit Farmer’s Market

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Last time you were at the market did you interview a farmer? Or find a fruit or vegetable that you’ve never seen at the grocery store? These kids did, as part of an interactive scavenger hunt through Watertown-based Vacation Garden School at the Church of the Good Shepard. The camp is now in its third year, and has visited the Belmont Farmer’s Market each summer. 

The 29 campers are outside most of the day, says Reverend and camp director Amy McCreath, and activities focus on appreciating the wonders of nature in the world around them. The kids are from Watertown, Belmont, and Waltham and range from three-and-a-half to eleven years of age. Each day the older kids, called “Junior Counselors”, take a field trip to places like The Mt. Auburn Cemetery or The Charles River. 

At the Farmer’s Market the campers were split into groups to explore. Each group interviewed a farmer, asking questions like “What insects help/hurt your plants?” or “Why should people buy food from you rather than Walmart or Shaws?”. They were also given some money to pick out a new and interesting food to share with the rest of the group. 

McCreath, whose daughters participate in the camp, describes the annual trip as “a highlight”, where the campers have the chance to try new foods and learn about the sources of what they eat. “I love seeing kids dancing around, reporting on ‘how awesome’ fennel or raw corn or Japanese turnips are!” 

First Harvests with Community Growing

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The Community Growing Project at Belmont High School and Beth El Temple has made its first harvests for the Belmont Food Pantry. So far broccoli, beans and beets have been delivered and tomatoes and eggplant are on their way. Pictured here are some of the high school students who have been working in the garden.

1st Harvest

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The produce was joined at the Food Pantry by summer squash, cucumbers and greens from the Boston Area Gleaners. This organization collects surplus crops from local farms and regularly provides fresh vegetables for the Belmont Food Pantry, as well as many others.

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BHS Garden Update: Stakes, First Tomatoes and Surviving Arthur

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As part of the BFC’s Food Assistance program, in 2014 the Community Growing project was expanded to partner with BHS’ Garden and Food Justice Club. The new BHS Garden has been built and cared for nearly exclusively by high school students. In 2012 Community Growing started with growing vegetables in local backyards. In 2013, we partnered with the Beth El Temple Center, and now have 6 beds providing produce for the Belmont Food Pantry at that location.

20140705_132945Despite the gusts and furies of tropical storm Arthur this past week, the garden is growing strongly! The tomatoes have been staked, thanks to a donation from Belmont Acres Farm, who also provided the broccoli, tomato and eggplant seedlings. In addition, we are growing beets and beans.

Looking to find out more about Community Growing or what’s going on at the High School? Contact the club at bhsgardenfood@gmail.com.

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BHS Garden Update: Stakes, First Tomatoes and Surviving Arthur

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As part of the BFC’s Food Assistance program, in 2014 the Community Growing project was expanded to partner with BHS’ Garden and Food Justice Club. The new BHS Garden has been built and cared for nearly exclusively by high school students. In 2012 Community Growing started with growing vegetables in local backyards. In 2013, we partnered with the Beth El Temple Center, and now have 6 beds providing produce for the Belmont Food Pantry at that location.

20140705_132945Despite the gusts and furies of tropical storm Arthur this past week, the garden is growing strongly! The tomatoes have been staked, thanks to a donation from Belmont Acres Farm, who also provided the broccoli, tomato and eggplant seedlings. In addition, we are growing beets and beans.

Looking to find out more about Community Growing or what’s going on at the High School? Contact the club at bhsgardenfood@gmail.com.

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