Bees, bugs and beef are buddies!

Multi-generational family farmers have recently enhanced local habitat by revegetating almost a hectare of less-productive pasture. The Peel family is one of the first successful applicants for Bee Friendly Farming® certification in Australia, and they are also recent successful recipients of funding from the affiliated Tree Grants program.

The Peels’ farm is located near Inverleigh (30km west of Geelong in Victoria, Australia), and is predominantly dryland cropping, complemented with cattle and sheep grazing.

Since 1854, the Peel family have recognized the benefits of ecological diversity by planting tens of thousands of trees across their property, fencing off waterways and wetlands, and encouraging bird life.

Ewen Peel’s progressive father Ross consulted an ecologist in the 1980s to advise planting local provenance species that are maturing now into functional habitat. The same ecologist assisted on their latest farm plantation, fifty years later.

Pollinators have long been part of the Peels’ lives, with hundreds of registered bee hives managed in the 1950s. Eliza and Ewen Peel, and 6 year-old Patrick, currently keep about 15 hives on the property.

The certification process prompted a closer look at plant flowering times and flower types, colours and shapes on the property. Improved pollinator habitats are also beneficial to livestock through shade and windbreak provision, and indirectly through better nutrition with better pollinated, healthier pastures.

“I love being part of positive and proactive communities; Bee Friendly Farming® has a common purpose to support and encourage pollinators on farms,” says Eliza. “I like the idea of being connected with a group that is global, and cross-pollinating ideas and practices with other farmers in the U.S. and Canada.”

“Having a finger on the pulse with respect to new ideas, practices, benchmarks in agriculture and for pollinators on farms is really important. Bee Friendly Farming® allows us to strengthen and refocus our management of this broad-acre Australian property,” says Eliza.

The Peels acknowledge that most farmers work hard to improve the conditions for livestock and crops, with the return being increased profitability. “I don’t know many farmers who aren’t ‘greenies’ on the inside. Many farmers are the biggest environmentalists I know, and are taking the responsibility as caretakers of our precious earth very seriously,” said Eliza.

Eliza said the straightforward application process prompted a big-picture and practical analysis of what pollinators need: optimum habitats, water availability, floral resources and suitable nesting sites.

A bonus of the Bee Friendly Farming® certification was the opportunity to apply for funding under the Tree Grants program, which Eliza says was a valuable subsidy to offset tree planting costs.

The Peels believe the Tree Grants are a small piece of the bigger picture. “Proper management of actively growing trees will increase the amount of carbon sequestration, so we can do our bit to address global warming.”

Ongoing management and enhancement of habitat on the property is important to the Peels. “In the past, many landholders enthused over the initial tree plantings, then lapsed into a ‘lock it up and forget it’ mentality,” Eliza said, “but, the Tree Grants program encourages us to maximise environmental goals over the long-term.”

“Increasing biodiversity helps us feed people globally and care for the environment without compromising either.”

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