Pollinators Thrive on David’s Farm

Pollinators Thrive on David’s Farm

David Ainslie is a passionate advocate for pollinators who has worked tirelessly since the early 1980s to promote conservation and increase biodiversity on his 300-acre farm located near Leamington, Ontario.

His vision is for a place where farming and nature, with all of its beautiful, living organisms, can co-exist and he believes that maintaining diverse and resilient ecosystems is critical to achieving this objective. David was an early adopter to conservation farming techniques, such as no-till cropping. His farm also features ponds, pollinator meadows and wind breaks that have been enhanced with plants, such as lupines, bergamot and other native varieties, increasing habitat for pollinators and promoting greater biological diversity. Another feature is a relatively intact, 30-acre, Carolinian woodlot, which he has enriched with plantings of native trees, shrubs and flowering plants. Altogether, David has set aside about 15% of his property as natural areas which, through his conservation efforts and time, have become diverse and ecologically-rich landscapes where birds, bees, butterflies and other creatures can thrive.

Bergamot and lupines.

This farm follows a different model than most modern day farms yet, it succeeds in showing what is possible when the determination to create something better exists. David’s work has been recognized by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, which awarded him the prestigious Farmer-Rancher Pollinator Conservation Award for 2015.

Blood rood and red trillium.

David’s story provides an opportunity to consider how each of us can help to foster positive change in nature. We, too, can be stewards of the land, whether this be the areas around our homes, the school yards where our children play or the public spaces in our cities. Safeguarding our precious and wonderful natural world is a responsibility that we all share.

Bee City School Garden Project Breaks Ground

Bee City School Garden Project Breaks Ground

Planting and tending to a garden can teach us many important things about nature, pollinators and where our food comes from, which is why we’re extremely excited about our School Gardens project that kicked-off earlier this spring.

Bee City Canada founder Shelly Candel speaks with students and teachers at North Bendale Public School. The Bee City team visited all participating schools during the winter to talk about plants, pollinators and begin the garden planning process.

This initiative, which is being generously supported by the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation and Patagonia, will bring pollinator, herb and edible gardens to several Toronto-area schools including Tredway Woodsworth and North Bendale Public Schools in Scarborough, Valley Park Middle School and Marc Garneau Collegiate in Thorncliffe and Cottingham Junior Public School in Summerhill.

Students learned that an essential step of establishing a garden is creating a good design and plan.

Why Gardens? 

Gardens are a simple way through which we can help children build a greater sense of connectedness with nature, especially those growing-up in highly urbanized environments. In addition, they promote physical activity, self-sufficiency and encourage healthier eating, which includes more fruit and vegetables. Some studies also suggest that students who are exposed to outdoor learning activities can perform better academically.

Building the Gardens 

As I write this, the first and most laborious phase of the project is taking place. Truckloads of compost, which will serve as the base for the gardens, have started arriving at the schools and the students have taken up shovels, rakes and wheelbarrows to begin shaping the planting areas.  Seed for hardier, cold-tolerant varieties of plants, like kale, swiss chard and lettuce, are being sown directly into the beds, while more tender varieties will be planted as the risk of frost passes. Several other plants that will eventually find their way into the gardens were started by the students and cared for in their classrooms, providing an excellent opportunity to observe the growing process up-close and learn about the ways of nature.

Starting seeds.

Next Steps                                

By early June, focus will shift to the maintenance phase of the project, which will include tasks like watering, weeding and checking for any potential problems. By the end of the school year, we hope that the students will have learned a great deal and, with some good fortune and a healthy dose of sunshine, be able to harvest the first fruits of their labour.

We’ll “bee” updating our blog with more photos and our latest school garden news throughout the growing season so, please make sure to check back often to see what’s “growing” on!

Celebrating Bee Cities Kitchener and Waterloo!

Celebrating Bee Cities Kitchener and Waterloo!

Shelly Candel addresses community members during the Bee City recognition ceremony at the 2018 Kitchener-Waterloo Earth Day celebration.

Despite the chill in the air, there was a great turnout for the 2018 Kitchener-Waterloo Earth Day celebration held at Kiwanis Park in Kitchener on April 28th, 2018.

The event offered many things to interest nature lovers. Fans of birds witnessed some impressive bird of prey presentations put on by the Canadian Raptor Conservancy. The Waterloo Horticultural Society, RARE Reserve, Waterloo Region Nature and Bee City Kitchener teams were also on hand, organizing fun and educational activities, such as bird box building and native shrub and tree planting.

Left: The Canadian Raptor Conservancy’s birds of prey were a star attraction at the Earth Day celebration
Right: A young visitor playing the seed matching game at the Kitchener Bee City display table.

What was most exciting for Bee City Canada however, was that we had the honour of recognizing two new Bee Cities, Kitchener and Waterloo! During  a brief ceremony attended by members of each community, Bee City Canada’s founder Shelly Candel offered special thanks to Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic and Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky for their support and leadership in protecting pollinators! She also recognized municipal champions Joshua Shea, Natural Areas Coordinator for Kitchener and Peggy Stevens, Environmental Stewardship Coordinator for Waterloo, as well as the working group champions who volunteer their time and passion to help protect pollinators in their respective communities.

Left to right: Waterloo Bee City Working Group member Gary Brenner, Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky, Bee City Canada Director Shelly Candel, Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic.

This was Bee City Kitchener’s first public event and the booth included a seed matching game, educational information and some beautiful photos of native pollinators and plants! The City of Kitchener became Ontario’s 7th Bee City and is undertaking some exciting bee-friendly initiatives all around the city, including a 2018 project that will see eight hectares of meadow habitat restored and enhanced.

Left to right: Nicola Thomas, Kim Fellows, Nancy Dykstra and Kathy Waybrant, four of our Bee City Kitchener Working Group Members.

The City of Waterloo is the 8th Bee City in Ontario and supports native pollinators through community-based stewardship activities and environmental education. Plans for 2018 include new naturalization efforts and ongoing large scale plantings on municipal property. Learn more by visiting Waterloo’s Bee City web page.

Join the Bee City family!  Learn about our programs from cities, schools, businesses and other organizations.

The Calgary Zoo Joins the Bee City Canada Family!

The Calgary Zoo Joins the Bee City Canada Family!

Bee City Canada extends its warmest welcome to the Calgary Zoological Society, the first Bee City Business in Alberta!  As long standing wildlife conservation advocates, we are excited to recognize the Calgary Zoo for their commitment to habitat conservation, education and community engagement in support of pollinators.

Spanning 125 acres, with an additional 300 acre endangered species breeding facility, the zoo grounds host thousands of nectar-rich native plants, with varying and overlapping bloom times, and floral shapes to satisfy a diverse population of pollinators.  Also, the zoo’s approach for managing plant life, incorporating forest floor, understory, shrub and tree layers, provides a diverse and healthy habitat where pollinators can thrive. In 2015, the ‘Pollinator Garden’ was created in a high-profile area, providing additional habitat while also increasing public engagement and creating awareness about the importance of pollinators.

The zoo’s bid to join the Bee City family was strengthened by its ongoing efforts to educate visitors. This is done through interpretive signage in various prominent locations as well as interactive programs. For example, last year, visitors learned how to pot native species, which they were able to take home and plant in their gardens. Also, the zoo estimates that over 65,000 school children participate in educational events annually, a number of which are related to pollinators.  Additional educational activities focus on zoo staff, usually taking place at important times of the year, such as the spring planting season.

The Bee City Business program recognizes socially responsible businesses, non-profit groups and other organizations that are taking action to protect pollinators. Like Bee City Canada’s programs for cities and schools, participants in the Business program are asked to commit to:

  • Creating new, maintaining or improving existing pollinator habitat
  • Educating employees, customers and the local community about the importance of pollinators, and
  • Celebrating International Pollinator Week.

The Calgary Zoo joins three Ontario-based organizations which enrolled in the program in 2017.

We thank the Calgary Zoo for their commitment and tremendous efforts to promote pollinator conservation. As a Bee City Business, the Calgary Zoo is actively participating in a campaign supported by more than 24 cities, schools, and businesses that have committed to do their part to create healthy landscapes, educate Canadians and celebrate the beauty of pollinators.

A Great Year at Bee City Canada!

A Great Year at Bee City Canada!

With the end of the year approaching, we share with you Bee City Canada’s highlights for 2017 and plans for the future.

Bee Cities from coast to coast! Eight new cities joined us, bringing our current total to 10 Bee Cities, spanning from British Columbia to New Brunswick.

Businesses are helping pollinators! Businesses and organizations, like West Queen West BIA and The Bee Shop, have partnered with us through our new Bee Business program. Also, generous support from A. Vogel and Movieposter.com helped us to continue to advocate for pollinators.

Schools are buzzing! Gardens were planted, seeds were saved and young minds at our six Bee Schools and one Bee Campus learned many important things about bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

Much Anticipation for 2018

Our plans for the new year include some exciting, new initiatives.

More Bee Communities – Keep Bee City growing by adding:

  • 10 new Bee Cities
  • 50 Bee Businesses and organizations, and
  • 20 new Bee Schools and Campuses.

New initiatives:

  • Launch a free regional native seed giveaway program for all Bee Cities and other members.
  • Establish six edible and pollinator gardens at schools.
  • Organize workshops and field trips to connect students with how food is grown.
  • Host free public webinars featuring experts on pollinators and other subjects.

Support our Work

As a charitable organization, our work depends on the generosity of our donors and sponsors. We are confident that, with your help, we can continue to support these initiatives and advocate for the protection of pollinators across Canada.

We close off by wholeheartedly thanking you, our friends across Canada and elsewhere, for your continued support and commitment to our cherished pollinators. 2018 promises to be another busy year and we look forward to it with much anticipation.

Happy holidays to you and your families!

The Bee City Canada team

West Queen West Becomes First Bee City Business in Canada

West Queen West Becomes First Bee City Business in Canada

Bee City Canada is very excited to announce the launch of the Bee City Business program along with a partnership with the West Queen West Business Improvement Association (WQW BIA), the first participant in this new initiative!

The Bee City Business program opens the door to businesses and non-profit organizations wishing to join the growing Bee City family. More importantly, it provides an opportunity for businesses to show that they are socially responsible and committed to taking actions that will help our troubled pollinators.

West Queen West recently introduced their “Pollinator Paradise” project, creating Toronto’s first bee-friendly streetscape. The strip of Queen street between Bathurst Street and Gladstone Avenue has been lined with large, artfully decorated, concrete planters seeded with a mix of pollinator, edible, and medicinal plants. Several bee hotels have also been installed on 10-foot-high birch poles that have been set in the planters. Work for this project was done with the help of Restorative Landscapes and has received positive reviews from area residents, visitors, local businesses and, quite certainly, Toronto’s pollinators!

Rob Sysak, the Executive Director of the WQW BIA explained why the project became a priority for this community.

“The bee population loss is such a big problem and sometimes it seems overwhelming. People ask themselves; what can I do, I’m just one person? Well, WQW believe that even though we are only a 2-kilometre strip in a large city, if we take care of our area and become a “Pollinator’s Paradise”, we will not only help pollinators but also become an example to others.”

Planter and bee hotel. Photo by Nick Savva.

Shelly Candel, the founder of Bee City Canada, agrees and points to this initiative as an example of how businesses can act to help our troubled pollinators. “There’s an opportunity for businesses to take a leadership role to make things better for pollinators. The WQW BIA has found a clever way to do this. They’ve beautified their neighbourhood, making it more attractive to visitors and residents, while also helping pollinators in the city. Visitors to the area love how great everything looks, the business owners fully support the initiative and the bees are happy. It’s truly a win-win scenario!”

Planters and seating at the corner of Queen and Tecumseth are inviting for area visitors, the local community and pollinators. Photo by Nick Savva.