Fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables abound at North Carolina farmers markets and grocery stores. And while the state’s farmers work hard to grow a variety of produce including strawberries, blueberries, tomatoes, cucumbers and more, they can’t do it alone.
Buzzing honeybees, darting hummingbirds, pretty butterflies and other pollinators are crucial for a successful produce crop. In fact, up to a third of the food we eat can be directly attributed to the work of pollinators.
Pollinators help plants produce more fruit and seeds. Bees, birds, insects and more transfer pollen from one part of the flower of a plant to another, in turn fertilizing the plant. Without pollinators, plants cannot reproduce.
Shawn and Tracey Harding of Southside Farms in Chocowinity grow many different types of produce and rely heavily on pollinators for their livelihood.
“At Southside Farms, we are primarily a strawberry farm, but raise many other fruits and vegetables, too,” Tracey Harding says. “Strawberries are very reliant on bees for pollination. We have four rented hives on our farm for pollination of berries and all the other produce we raise.”
She adds that unfortunately, consumers have developed a “grocery store mentality,” meaning some have little understanding of the process of how food is grown.
“Pollination is a key step in the production of fruits and vegetables,” Harding says. “This is one of the reasons we talk to children during field trips to our farm about pollination, so future generations will be more aware.”
To help protect pollinators for the future, Harding says the most important thing is to “bee” aware.
“By educating the public of their importance, we help protect the population. Also, when it becomes necessary to treat our fields with pesticides, we always make sure to apply at night when bees aren’t foraging,” she says.