Scott Witte and Luke Cella Honored for Their Partnership to Promote Pollinator and Environmental Health on Chicagoland Golf Courses
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. (December 13, 2016) – Bayer announced today the recipients of the fourth annual Bayer Bee Care Community Leadership Award are Scott Witte, director of agronomy at Cantigny Golf in Wheaton, Illinois, and Luke Cella, executive director of the Midwest Association of Golf Course Superintendents (MAGCS). The pair is recognized for their efforts to promote healthy ecosystems for honey bees and other pollinators through the Bee Barometer Project. The award, sponsored by the Bayer North American Bee Care Program, was created to distinguish individuals who use their interest in honey bees to benefit a community, and has now evolved to recognize the important partnership between beekeepers and other environmental stakeholders in their local community. As the 2016 winners, Witte and Cella will receive a $6,000 grant to bring their program to other golf courses in the area. Additionally, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, of which Cantigny Golf is a part, will match the grant two-to-one to set up a Pollinator Fund of $18,000 that will be utilized to help promote diverse ecosystems on golf courses throughout Chicago.
The Bee Barometer Project, founded by Witte in 2010, is dedicated to changing public perception about golf courses’ roles in conservation and land management. Golf courses offer large areas of valuable greenspace across the Midwest, which are ideal for supporting diverse ecosystems with various types of flora and fauna, not just for sport.
“I’m very honored and humbled to have won the Bayer Community Leadership Award,“ said Witte. “With these funds, we can perpetuate the message that golf courses are very healthy ecosystems when managed properly and proactively, and honey bees and pollinators can coexist side by side with world class golf conditions all across the U.S.”
Cantigny Golf is home to six managed hives and two wild hives, all of which thrive on native wildflower patches found throughout the grounds. However, these bees support more than just the pretty flowers that line the fairway. They offer a great learning opportunity for golfing patrons about the important role pollinators play in the outdoor landscapes we enjoy. Additionally, honey provided by the managed hives is incorporated into meals prepared by the course chef, as well as sold in the pro shop to help generate funds for Witte’s environmental projects.
Through his role with the MAGCS, Cella has worked with Witte to implement and promote environmental initiatives modelling the Bee Barometer Project on other Chicagoland area golf courses. Part of the Community Leadership Award grant will be put toward a scholarship fund to enable more superintendents to begin their own beekeeping and pollinator programs.
“Scott and Luke’s passion for pollinator education and environmental health is exceedingly apparent,” said Becky Langer, project manager of the North American Bayer Bee Care Program. “We are so glad to have this pair as the first partnership to receive the Community Leadership Award. Not only do they serve as an example of a great partnership benefitting pollinators, but they are also a great example for community education and how a program can inspire others to follow in action.”
Bayer received numerous entries from dedicated beekeepers around the country. This year, each applicant had to provide the following information to be considered for the award:
- Description of collaboration to promote and protect pollinator health
- Answers to a set of essay questions about their work and interest in pollinators; and
- Letter of reference from a fellow beekeeper, grower, community leader or apiarist
The entries were judged by a three-person panel that included Pam Smith, crops technology editor for Progressive Farmer; Joe Graham, editor of American Bee Journal; and Langer.
The Community Leadership Award is just one of many initiatives of the Bayer Bee Care Program dedicated to pollinator health. Feed a Bee, a national initiative to plant more forage for pollinators, recently announced it has planted 2 billion wildflower seeds across the nation since 2015, creating more diverse sources of nutrition for pollinators. Bayer also funds the research grants administered by Project Apis m. as part of the Healthy Hives 2020 initiative to find a tangible solution to the challenges facing pollinators by the year 2020.
For more information on Bayer bee health initiatives, including Feed a Bee, please visit: Beehealth.Bayer.us. You can also follow and share with us on Twitter @BayerBeeCare, on Facebook at Facebook.com/BayerBeeCareCenter and view photos on Flickr.
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