Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The Last Nomadic Farmers

Photo by Emilie Dayan Hill
Photo by Emilie Dayan Hill

Do these polar temperatures have you wanderlusting for warmer places and traveling?
Well, let’s talk about bees—bees and their keepers. Let’s talk about the humans who support the weight of our fragile ecological system with their fleet of tiny workers. Let’s talk about the last nomadic farmers in the United States.
A short documentary film, Who Keeps the Beekeepers by Timothy Powers, reveals the secret life of beekeepers. These men and women are often unnoticed. Yet we owe the diversity on our plates, particularly in fruits and nuts, to their dedicated work. Whereas commodity crops like wheat are wind pollinated, many fruits like apples, cherries, plums, and peaches, and nuts like almonds, pecans, and walnuts, require cross-pollination that bees achieve on behalf of the plant.
Large-scale apiculturists migrate with the bees. That means winter is spent in Florida, followed by a tasting of apples in Pennsylvania, blueberries in Maine, pumpkins in a return to Pennsylvania, cranberries in Massachusetts, back to Florida, then almonds in California, and then back to Florida for the winter, in that order.
Maintaining variety in our diets is a matter of supporting apiculture and its specialists just as much as it is a matter of protecting the individual bee.
So, bundle up for the latest blast of cold weather, mix yourself a hot toddy with a good dose of honey, and watch this short film.
Then thank the bees and especially their keepers.
–Emilie Dayan, Southern Foodway’s Alliance