Fresh Flowers in Flanagan: Feed a Bee Pollinator Tour
Last month, the first annual Feed a Bee national planting tour took us to the Salem4youth campus in Flanagan, Illinois, for a pollinator workshop benefiting growers, beekeepers and other members of the community. This therapeutic boarding school for young men has been a long-time partner of Feed a Bee and introduced beekeeping into its curriculum four years ago to educate students on the importance of pollinators. As the school is an all-boys program, the bees that call the six Salem4youth colonies home have become affectionately known as their “gals” to students.
The morning was focused on the importance of collaboration in promoting pollinator health and highlighted how establishing additional forage provides more habitat and nutrition sources for bees and other pollinators. The nearly 50 attendees, ranging from local growers to beekeeping enthusiasts, had the opportunity to visualize this lesson through a workshop led by respected experts in the agriculture field. Our guest speakers gave thoughtful and engaging breakout session talks on the following topics:
- Bee Education led by Carl Wenning, Beekeeper, Author and Speaker
- Ground Prep, Planting and Maintenance for Pollinator Habitats led by Travis Deppe, Agronomy Sales Associate with Evergreen FS
- Plant Choice led by Jason Fritz, Nursery Sales Manager in the Engineering and Environmental Services Division of Cardno
- Sustainable Agriculture led by Nick Tinsley, SeedGrowth Technical Representative with Bayer Crop Science division.
The beautiful Midwestern landscape provided a scenic background as we enjoyed time to come together over coffee and breakfast. Guests were buzzing with conversations about the best ways to approach sustainability, responsible growing practices and doing our part to protect pollinators before heading into the field to put discussion into action.
After the workshop, attendees were able to put their lessons to practical use by helping to establish the new pollinator plot on the Salem4youth campus to support the “gals.” The blooms from these wildflower seeds will provide forage for pollinators next spring. In conjunction with the other three plantings that took place as part of the forage tour, Feed a Bee planted 50 million seeds across the nation this fall!
To close out the event, we celebrated pollinators through giveaways! The guests loved taking home flavored honey sticks, in orange blossom, wildflower and clover varieties, as well as local honey produced by Salem4youth’s hives. Four bee-themed gift baskets were also raffled off with goodies including honey lotion, beeswax candles, recipes incorporating honey, gardening gloves and a pollinator-themed coloring book. We are also very grateful to have been able to raffle off four tickets to the Normal Children’s Discovery Museum thanks to our special guest Teresa Decker, development coordinator of the museum. Because of their collaboration with another Feed a Bee partner and dedication to agriculture and pollinator education, we have donated more than $15,000 to the museum, and we’re appreciative for their continued support of our program. All giveaways were a big hit!
We are very thankful for all the success we’ve seen through our national planting tour and the enthusiasm of the communities who have joined us in supporting pollinators. It has been a great chance to share ideas and learn from one another.