January 9th: A Happy Marriage of Conservation & Commerce

“A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.”

~John James Audubon.

Today we are planting trees at the apiary. And if you farm or dream of farming, or know someone who does, you will want to pay attention to this story because there is a great but underutilized program available to incentivize farmers to care for the land.

Big Branch Apiary has a Conservation Stewardship Program agreement with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The NRCS is part of the Department of Agriculture and comes under the USDA. A CSP agreement is more nuanced than “plant trees, get paid.” An agent works with you to determine what will benefit your land’s natural environment. You will jointly come up with ways to build on conservation practices already in place in ways that will strengthen your production program. Ergo the program will look different for every operation. Big Branch Apiary’s agreement includes measures to increase and protect pollinator habitat, and to plant food-producing trees and bushes.

Hauling a load of happiness for planting around the apiary.

Those with land in agricultural production can apply to the CSP. Agreements are for five years, have no acreage minimum, and pay a minimum of $1500 annually depending on your program. Find the deets at www.nrcs.usda.gov.

Farming is changing. Some say too little, too late but from Big Ag to urban lots agricultural producers are discovering that using practices that conserve and improve the health of the land result in better production. These lessons are often learned the hard way.

The National Resource Conservation Service was one of the agencies created in response to the Dust Bowl–a tragedy born of drought and poor farm practices that led to the loss of topsoil in vast areas of the nation’s heartland. The tillage practices in common use during the 1930s that led to the Dust Bowl led to incredible crops–for a few years. Ultimately unsustainable, deep tillage led to the loss of arable land. Today soil is improved through no-till planting and the use of cover crops to control weeds, hold in water, and add nutrients. Not only do these methods improve soil and help sequester carbon, but they ultimately lead to better crops with less money spent on inputs like herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizer.

Native flag iris growing in the bayou that runs through Big Branch Apiary.

Our to-do list for today looks something like this:
1. Tend to birds–feed & collect eggs.
2. Check levels on the bee feeders. We added a pollen feed station over the weekend and will place pollen patties in each hive so the girls get all the protein and nutrients they need to grow in number.
3. Plant food-producing trees. We have Autumn Brilliance serviceberry–a variety that can grow in our USDA zone, Persian and dwarf mulberry, native persimmon, low chill-hour apples, and about 200 new and replacement varieties of blueberries to meet our Conservation Stewardship Program requirements. We will also plant Mrs. GG Gerbing azaleas, Snow on the Mountain sasanquas, a Montezuma cypress, three Torrey Pines, and a sweet olive because it’s hard to imagine having too many beautiful trees, and beauty, after all, helps feed the soul.

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Published by c ben-iesau

From L.A. to LA... I'm a New Orleans based artist and writer.

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