2016 Community Leadership Award Winners Capitalize on Golf’s Green Opportunities
Despite the environmental benefits to honey bees and pollinators, diverse ecosystems struggle to gain acceptance on golf courses due to prevailing expectations for sterile, weed-free, mono-stands of turfgrass. As a consequence, many golf course properties are reluctant to change their management practices, and they miss opportunities to provide healthy environments for countless varieties of wildlife. The 2016 Community Leadership Award winners, Scott Witte, director of agronomy at Cantigny Golf in Illinois, and Luke Cella, executive director of the Midwest Association of Golf Course Superintendents, are leveraging their Bee Barometer Project (BBP) to increase acceptance of varied habitats on golf courses. Through the BBP they are committed to promoting, demonstrating and educating the public about the importance of diverse ecosystems to support healthy environments needed by many types of fauna and flora.
The BBP breaks down barriers of the status quo by urging golf property managers and golfers to think differently and open their minds to the beauty and value of nature in its wild state. Through educating and demonstrating the alluring art of beekeeping, the BBP encourages people already enthusiastic about golf and its environmental opportunities to move the golf community toward embracing diverse habitats on golf courses and to make them a part of solving one of the most important environmental issues of the day: sustaining pollinator health.
The modern-day golf course finds itself on a challenging frontier, especially as pristine standards – set by golfer expectations – contribute to greater demands for the immaculate golf experience. This Augusta paradigm, or sterility of playing surfaces and landscapes, presents a difficult standard to uphold and a barrier to diverse ecosystems on golf courses. These standards discourage golf courses from using more of their valuable green space to model exceptional land stewardship, build healthier habitat and foster environments conducive to pollinators and all forms of wildlife
However, healthy habitats are hardwired into Cantigny Golf’s DNA, as strategic partnerships have always been key to their success. Eagle Scouts, Boy Scouts and volunteers have assisted them with constructing and maintaining over 50 bluebird boxes, six mallard boxes, six wood duck boxes, two bat boxes and a screech owl box for their nest box-monitoring program. Cantigny Golf’s birding volunteers, Ray and Cecilia Feld, work diligently to steward its nesting program, as well as manage its thriving Purple Martin colony. A dedicated team of volunteers diligently nurtures Cantigny Golf’s native prairie areas throughout the golf course, and National Honor Society students from The South Elgin High School Chapter have assisted with European Buckthorn removal for its native woodland restoration projects. Most recently, Cantigny Golf and the BBP have received support from Bayer Bee Care’s Feed a Bee initiative. Twenty pounds of pollinator forage seed mix and hundreds of native prairie plant plugs have been donated to the BBP to help augment Cantigny Golf’s native prairie areas.
Scott Witte and Luke Cella are recognized for their passion for pollinators and dedication to land stewardship, and as 2016 Bayer Bee Care Community Leadership Award winners, the pair has been able to continue the BBP’s valuable work in their community and grow similar projects at other golf courses throughout the Chicagoland area. Their partnership is an excellent example of a collaborative relationship between beekeepers and golf course executives to improve bee health. These types of collaborations are increasingly important and are a key focus of the 2017 Bayer Bee Care Community Leadership Award.
This year, the Community Leadership Award is continuing its partnership-focused structure and further expanding its reach to recognize collaboration among beekeepers and growers, researchers, golf course superintendents and/or other stakeholders whose partnerships protect pollinators and benefit their communities. The partners who enter are eligible for a $5,000 prize to continue their valuable collaborative work with bees in their community.
New in 2017, the Community Leadership Award will also recognize a young beekeeper under 18 years old with a $1,000 prize to support honey bee-focused initiatives in his or her school or community, such as researching ways to improve honey bee health, establishing an apiary on his or her school campus or amplifying existing beekeeping efforts. Any student under 18 who has approval from a legal guardian and sponsoring mentor, such as an apiarist, grower, community leader, teacher, school official, beekeeper, etc., may apply.
Entrants must complete an entry form, two essay questions and provide contact details for a reference who is an apiarist, a grower, a community leader or a member of a relevant organization, such as a beekeeper, growing or gardening association. The award winners will be selected from a pool of applicants by a panel of judges.
To review application requirements and expectations of the award winners, enter online or download an entry form, as well as learn more about former award recipients, including Scott Witte and Luke Cella, please visit
https://beehealth.bayer.us/beekeepers/community-leadership-award. The deadline for submission is May 19, 2017.
If you’d like to learn more about The Bee Barometer Project or how golf course green space can benefit pollinators and wildlife, visit www.beehealth.bayer.us/beekeepers or email Scott.Witte@ProBee1.com.