A central focus of biodynamic farming is to maintain at least 10 percent of a farm’s native habitat for wildlife and insect species that together create a healthy and resilient ecosystem. The presence of these animals, beneficial insects, plants, and microorganisms help protect the crops from harmful predators, parasites, and diseases.
How can we farm and garden in ways that protect and nurture these essential pollinators? At Frey Vineyards in Mendocino County, California, we strive to create healthy, viable ecosystems on the farm. For example, many bird species rely on insects to feed their young, so over 100 bird nest boxes are distributed throughout our vineyards. Bluebirds, tree swallows, and ash-throated flycatchers use the boxes for their homes and help keep pest populations down.
Planting local, native plant species also helps to foster healthy farm and garden ecosystems. Insects have evolved with specific plant communities, so using a variety of plants that are native to one’s region and choosing a selection of plants that provide a continual bloom throughout the growing season will provide the best food source to attract and sustain these beneficial creatures. Frey Vineyards is working to reestablish native vegetation at our new winery to support monarch butterflies and our hives of honeybees. Native flowering shrubs, milkweeds, and perennial bunch grasses will be part of a nature trail where visitors can enjoy the beauty of our vineyard nestled in the surrounding oak woodland and learn about key plant communities and the wildlife that they support.
Making a commitment to not use pesticides or using only the least toxic methods possible at only the most vulnerable stages of a pest’s lifecycle is also essential. Our farming practices follow the strict USDA Organic Farming and Demeter Biodynamic Farming standards. Regulations governing pesticide use in both organizations prohibit the use of any synthetic compound.
U.C. Davis has an informative website to help you make the decisions about these least-toxic pest control options. Learn which species of pollinators you have in your area and focus on providing habitat and food sources for them. Many bees build their nests in the ground so you can leave bare patches of soil in areas that drain well for them to nest in. You can also provide a year-round source of drinking water by placing stones in a shallow basin so insects can safely drink without falling in. The Xerces Society has a wealth of information on gardening practices that support butterflies and pollinators. We look forward to having you visit when we are once again open to the public. Until then, happy bee and butterfly gardening!