Bringing (Burt’s) Bees to the Farm


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As part of our Bring Back the Bees partnership with the Burt’s Bees Greater Good Foundation, we’re working with a group of farmers this year to establish significant areas of pollinator-friendly plants on their farms to sustain foraging bees and other pollinators. We’re excited to have Hickory Meadows Organics as a participant in the project (pictured above). We also appreciate their willingness to let us use their farm as a living, natural laboratory to experiment with incorporating these types of crops onto working farmland.

Through the project, our staff is helping farmers gain access to organic, regionally-adapted seeds and make a plan for how to sustainably incorporate them into their cropping systems.

Brothers Peyton and Billy McDaniel, along with their cousin Phillip Watson, own and operate Hickory Meadows Organics, a multi-generation family farm located in Whitakers, North Carolina. The farmers currently grow 2,000 acres of sweet potatoes, soybeans, tobacco, corn, and peanuts. They have a split operation, meaning that they grow some conventional crops and some organic. At present, they produce organic tobacco, sweet potatoes, soybeans, and corn.

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This year, with technical assistance from RAFI’s staff, the farmers at Hickory Meadows Organics planted ten acres of wildflowers as well as 10 acres of sunflowers. When we were on a visit to the farm in late July, the tickseed, blackeyed susan, clover, and peas were in bloom along with the sunflowers.

Our thanks to the good folks at Burt’s Bees for joining us out at the farm last week for a visit to better understand the challenges and advantages of incorporating pollinator habitat on farms. Our staff member, Kelli Dale, is pictured below speaking to the group.

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Pictured: Kelli Dale (RAFI) talking with members of Burt’s Bees staff. From left to right: Vichi Jagannathan, Becky Martin, and Matt Kopac. On the right, Michael Sligh (RAFI) stands between farmers Peyton and Billy McDaniel.

What’s Next for Bringing Back the Bees?

Our staff member Kelli Dale plans to deliver the second half of our three-ton order of clover seed to the farmers at Hickory Meadows Organics for planting this week. That’s a lot of clover, and it will mean a lot to the pollinators that depend on accessible, nutritious forage to survive.

>> Stay tuned for more updates on our Bring Back the Bees campaign by following us on Facebook & Twitter.

>> Follow the hashtag #bringbackthebees, and use it on your bee and pollinator related posts online.


You Can Grow Wild & Promote Pollinators, Too.

Here’s a list of some of the wildflowers in the mix that we’re working with farmers to establish on their farms this year, in case you’d like to grow some of these pollinator-friendly plants yourself!

Wildflower Mix:

  • Little Bluestem
  • Beaked Panicgrass
  • Virginia Wildrye
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Blackeyed Susan
  • Slender Lespedeza
  • Scaly Blazing Star
  • Wild Quinine
  • Spiked Wild Indigo
  • Sensitive Pea
  • Spotted Beebalm
  • Mistflower
  • Ohio Spiderwort
  • Fringed Bluestar
  • Showy Aster
  • Starry Rosinweed

About Jean Willoughby

Jean Willoughby currently serves as RAFI's Communications Manager and Project Director, overseeing our grant program for entrepreneurial and innovative farmers, the Agricultural Reinvestment Fund. She created the Growing Innovation website as an online library to document the Fund's nearly 20-year history of awarding grants to 600+ food and farm businesses.