Successful Organic Farmers–the Key to a Good Future for Beekeeping
There are still a few places in North America where the landscape is not actively and continuously manipulated by people; where Nature still provides most of the seeds and plants that grow there; where pesticide use is rare or entirely absent–and where honeybees can thrive and produce good crops without feeding or other supplements. The southern Appalachian mountains might be the largest area of this kind, with its dependable rainfall and wonderful mix of flowering trees. In the desert Southwest, Nature can produce a huge variety and quantity of food for bees–when it rains. But the intervals of drought are too large and frequent to allow substantial numbers of honeybee colonies to thrive there over many years without help.
Otherwise, for the most part, wherever there is a suitable combination of soil, water and climate, honeybees and people must co-exist in landscapes dominated by people, and their quest for food, clothing, shelter and energy. Even on this recently crowded continent, we dominate the landscape more completely than any other living thing has ever done in the history of Planet Earth.
The cities are paved over, or nearly completely built out, leaving only a few small niches for honeybee colonies. Suburbs can support a lot of hobby beekeeping, but it’s really only in the rural countryside where there’s enough room and potential resource to produce all the bees, honey, pollination, pharmaceuticals and other honeybee wisdom that we will desperately need for the future.
Much of this rural countryside was a paradise for honeybees, almost from the beginning of settlement until sometime in the twentieth century. Europeans first brought honeybees to this “new world”, and even before many European settlements were built, honeybees moved inland faster than the pioneer farmers did. (It could be true that Native Americans were the only people in history who resented the arrival of honeybees in their midst–because the “white man’s flies” foretold the arrival of white surveyors and settlers.) From the entire eastern seaboard, west into Texas and the Dakotas, native flowering plants became became mixed together with European forage plants, trees and weeds. The small farmers who created this mass, rapid transformation of an entire continent needed woodlots for fuel and building materials; and livestock for food and clothing–guaranteeing a wide variety of flowering plants in almost every location; with nectar and pollen available throughout the frost-free season.
But during the twentieth century, and especially since World War II, our society has attempted (and so far largely succeeded in) a massive change of occupation. An agrarian-based society gradually changed its orientation towards industry; and more recently is moving more quickly towards service jobs and information technology. After the two world wars, industrial plants built to manufacture explosives and biological warfare agents were easily and profitably converted to the production of ag chemicals–fertilizers and pesticides. The factories and workers that produced the tanks and other war paraphernalia later manufactured not just cars and trucks, but also countless divisions of tractors and implements, ready to replace the horses and small farmers who left their rural homes to work in those factories; or who survived the conflicts and started a new and different life when they returned home. Thus, industrial agriculture was gestated and born over a period of perhaps 100 years, and now this land that was cleared, planted and harvested by millions of people, horses and oxen, can be farmed by a tiny fraction of the original number of yeoman farmers.
I used to think that the goal of this industrial agriculture was to produce our food with the smallest possible number of people involved. Over the last few years, it finally dawned on me that the real goal is to produce the food without any people at all. Just like modern cars, tractors can drive themselves now; and can be guided much more easily by satellite across the open fields than cars can be on crowded freeways. The “owners” (farmers?) of this newest and largest generation of machinery are not allowed to work on them when they break down or malfunction–the engines and controls are sealed and only the manufacturer’s technicians have the keys for access. Before long, some or all of these repairs will be done by drones and robots as well.
To farm our land this way with so few people requires gigantic monocultures with few obstacles like fencerows, woodlots, pastures or sloughs. The cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens that once were present on every farm are now crowded into their own factories or concentration camps, creating huge health risks for both animals and people. Meanwhile, back on the deserted rural acres where most of this livestock used to live, there’s no manure for the crops and so fertilizers and insecticides are necessary to get good yields. Cultivation on such a large scale is nearly impossible, so herbicides are always in the mix as well. If you set out to design a system that uses the maximum possible amount of fossil energy; while visually and environmentally degrading whole landscapes, it would be hard to do any better.
Industrial agriculture has been a disaster for honeybees. As you move west from the eastern seaboard–say, at the latitude of New Jersey–the original soil becomes richer and richer; and the disaster gets worse and worse–all the way to the richest soil of all, in Iowa and eastern Nebraska. Just before World War II, Iowa was a paradise for honeybees from one corner to the other. There was plenty of corn, but soybeans had not come on the scene yet in a big way. The cattle, hogs, sheep and chickens were still there, so there were pastures and the corn was rotated with alfalfa and clovers. Sweet clover grew as a weed and on set-aside acres, and all weeds still had a chance in the days before herbicides. Insecticides were few, and largely unnecessary. The largest tractors had fifty horsepower or less. Maple, willow, locust and basswood trees grew in fence rows, woodlots and sloughs–and all this added up to be the epicenter of honey production in North America at the time. Today, the pendulum has swung to the other extreme, and Iowa’s endless expanses of industrial corn and soybeans are a dead zone for honeybees. For decades I’ve listened to my queen customers to the north and west of Iowa describe how the corn and soybean monster is devouring and poisoning their territory. I always felt thankful that I was able to keep bees in a dairy region outside the stranglehold of industrial ag. But over the last decade especially, the chemical companies have made inroads here as well.
The North American beekeeping community has been using up most of its oxygen for decades, counting, killing and worrying about varroa mites. The arrival of these pests in N. America posed the biggest challenge to beekeeping here since the epidemics of american foulbrood earlier in the twentieth century. The response to this challenge changed beekeepers overnight from the one part of the ag community uniformly opposed to pesticides, into enthusiastic applicators. Varroa mites–and the ease of transporting bees across the continent–made beekeeping (the last holdout) into another part of industrial agriculture.
As beekeepers we all know on some level that industrial ag is crippling beekeeping (and probably ultimately ourselves as well)–but few of us are able to do much of anything about it. Every little bit helps, but planting flowers along roadsides and on small sacrifice areas are pretty weak responses given the scope of the problem. Even the few among us who have figured out a way to run our apiaries without treatments are vulnerable (perhaps even more so) to the escalating amount of toxins in the environment. This is the real existential threat to beekeeping, and the weakening of the bees through this cause exacerbates all the other problems we have to contend with.
But there is a group of people who are doing something about it constantly 24/7, and 365 days out of every year… These are the organic farmers who, one large or small property at a time, are creating sanctuaries for honeybees–and myriad other life forms–apart from the insanity of our culture’s move toward a robotic agriculture. These farmers are known by many different names, and classified according to some differences in the methods or philosophies: organic, biological, natural, biodynamic, ecological, permaculture, regenerative, and on and on… Let’s not worry too much about their labels or what kind of homemade fertilizers they concoct–we need them all. The basic concepts that define and unify all these groups are few and simple: they all strive to create a continuous chain of health connecting the soil, plants, animals and people. To succeed this chain must grow slowly stronger and more elaborate from one year to another. This process of elaboration is often defined, one way or another, as a quest for diversity; a process that invites as many species as possible–visible or invisible–onto the farm. This is what provides the fertility, resilience and balance necessary to move away from, and eventually abandon pesticides and chemical fertilizers. And they all try to achieve their goals using biological/solar energy in place of fossil energy wherever possible.
You couldn’t find a better recipe for good honeybee habitat than those few lines above. Planting flowers along the roads is fine, but it’s really a very small and largely ineffective way of helping bees. Along roads, the good bee forage exists only in an almost one-dimensional line that still leaves the bees vulnerable to toxins and/or forage deserts in every other direction. Bees forage in two and three dimensional circles and hemispheres, and any one organic farm of hundreds or even tens of acres can provide more safe bee habitat than a whole rural county’s worth of roadways. If organic farming can continue to spread, and these bee sanctuaries become more common and more contiguous, then beekeeping will have a good future. After watching agriculture, and keeping bees, for more than forty years, I now believe that the success or failure of organic farming will be the success or failure of our bees–and ourselves. The best thing we can do now, for both the bees and ourselves, is to support organic farms and organic farmers. My purpose in writing this essay is to introduce you to a few of the successful organic farmers in my county, and describe how their work has created many new resources for honeybees–and countless other living things. One of these farmers has recently started a few hobby colonies, but none of them pursue any income from bees; and all of this diversity, with clean pollen, nectar, water and fertility is the by-product of their efforts to constantly increase the health, balance, resilience and profitability of their dairy farms–from the soil, through their crops and livestock, and eventually to the people who consume the milk these farms produce.
Vermont is a small state, with an even smaller population, but we probably have, as a percentage of the total population, more participation in the local organic farming organizations than any other state; and we have been known further afield for organic farming and high quality farm products for many decades. For a long time though, most of these organic farms were small market gardens and dairies milking fewer than thirty cows. Many of these farms were founded and/or supported by other sources of capital and income. The total organic acreage was quite small. This all changed in the late ’90’s, when the demand for organic milk products increased nationwide, and larger buyers like the Organic Valley Co-op, Horizon Organic and Stoneyfield Farm Yogurt started recruiting new organic farms in Vermont to supply these growing markets. Some of these farms were far larger than the original organic dairies, and the total organic acreage in Vermont began rising rapidly. For the first time since I started watching in 1973, family farms milking from 10-300 or more cows had a stable milk price that enabled them to pay down debts, make improvements to all aspects of the farm, and have a decent way of life with their families. The other new elements that emerged in this opportunity were successful farms that grew from their own resources, and were not financed by other enterprises. All three of the farms I’m describing here rode this wave in the organic milk market, and pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps…
When I first wrote down the title for this essay, I mistakenly wrote: “Successful Organic Farms…” The correct title is: “Successful Organic Farmers, the Key to a Good Future for Beekeeping.” There’s an important distinction. Industrial ag tries to make all farms as simple and uniform as possible. Those who control this juggernaut–bureaucrats, lenders, ag chemical and oil companies, machinery manufacturers–and their associated hirelings in the extension service, do everything they can to get the most low quality food onto the market, at the cheapest price and with the lowest possible number of people involved. But every successful organic farm is unique. That’s because each one is the creation of a unique individual farmer or family of farmers, and was made in a location unique in time and space. Quality food, and a healthy rural environment can only be created by farmers who have aligned their own energy and thought with the unique natural forces present on their individual farms. For us looking for ways to restore health and sanity to our rural countryside, these people are the most important part. As our society quibbles and whines about climate change and pollution, these are the creative, capable people who are actually solving many of our most pressing problems–and receiving very little credit. Almost all successful organic farmers have an amazing and inspiring story to tell about the creation of their farm–if you can pry it out of them. It’s almost a rule that the more successful farmers have been at creating a happy and healthy life for their families, the less inclined they are to talk or brag about it to people they don’t know–preferring instead to quietly help their neighbors, their children, or other local young people struggling to get started…They deserve wider attention–and a fair crack at the whip.
Joe and Kathleen Hescock– Elysian Fields Farm
If you saw Joe and Kathleen Hescock’s farm today–actually three farms in the town of Shoreham–you would have trouble imagining where they started from. I first knew them when they were living with their newborn daughter in a tiny apartment above a run down shed on Joe’s mother’s place. Joe had grown up there on the farm, raising sheep. But with a big old house to maintain, five children to raise, and the early death of the father, the family farm was a pretty threadbare operation. Joe and Kath’s big break came with an opportunity to rent a 200 acre farm near Lake Champlain in 1989. It’s worth mentioning that all the farmers I know here who have succeeded in the “race to the bottom” world of Vermont dairy farming over the last forty years, started out renting. They all eventually bought farms, in order to insure stability–but they all agree that they did better economically when renting. The focus on grazing and homegrown food for their cattle is another characteristic they all share.
Joe and Kath rented for ten years before buying their farm. Their rental agreement was very favorable, and they used a fair amount of borrowed money to stock the original farm, and then to buy two other farms when they were turning a profit. Today, with their daughter and eight other employees they farm about 1300 acres and milk 300 cows. In ’92 they began focusing on grazing, and in ’99 joined the Horizon Organic Milk group.
What stands out on this farm is Joe’s innovative approach to rotations and growing his own grain. As he became more concerned about the reliability of custom harvesting and manure spreading, he gradually invested in a full set of tillage, planting and harvesting equipment, and now the farm is capable of producing and harvesting any kind of forage or grain crop. By rotating pastures with grain crops, yields have steadily increased without buying expensive inputs. All the rotations include legumes as forage crops and/or cover crops. Together with the regrowing pastures, this creates a huge, clean resource for honeybees and other insects of many kinds. I would have put bees on this farm long ago, but alas, this ecological paradise borders a large commercial orchard–the absolute bane of honey producers in this valley. Kath has recently taken an interest in beekeeping, and has started a few colonies–but she keeps them on one of their other farms, out of flight range of the orchard. So, Joe and Kath’s actual impact on honeybees in the valley so far has been to show to other farmers what’s possible with rotations including pasture, forage and grain crops, and showing how legume cover crops can build fertility without purchased fertilizers.
Anyone watching the business and the lifestyle of dairy farming since 1972 can draw only one conclusion: our family farmers have been thrown under the bus. We want the milk (eggs, meat, bread, produce) as cheap as possible, and we don’t care how we get it. As of this writing (late 2018) conventional, family dairy farms from Maine to the Carolinas, and from Oklahoma to North Dakota have been working steadily for four years and receiving a price for their product that won’ t even cover their expenses. In my county this means that the people who work harder and with more responsibility than anyone else, are not only failing to make a living for their families, but are also losing money every single day. What’s especially upsetting is watching, for decades, the river of crocodile tears flowing out of State Houses and Washington D.C.; and knowing that in six months congress could stabilize the whole situation indefinitely with a supply management system similar to Canada’s.
Producing organic milk provided an opportunity for creative and independent dairy farmers to escape from this horrible treadmill, beginning in the mid-’90’s. But recently, despite their own efforts at supply management, organic milk producers have created their own oversupply, and the price they receive per hundredweight has fallen dramatically in the last two years. Joe says he is still in a much better economic situation than his conventional neighbors, but that the future success of his farm will rise or fall depending on changes in his fixed costs–especially labor.
John and Beverly Rutter–Journey’s Hope Farm
John and Beverly Rutter were my neighbors in Bridport for many years. I first met John a couple of years before I happened to rent a house in that small town. Because somewhere between 60-90% of honey production in Addison County occurs through the interaction of cows with their environment, I often attended the extension meetings about intensive rotational grazing when it was just coming on to the radar screens here. I never said much at these meetings–just listening and hoping this new movement would replace some of the corn that was choking out the valley. At one of these events the presenter was showing how alfalfa could be used for grazing, and handed out a sheet showing all the debits and credits down to the last nickel. John was sitting next to me, and as the meeting was breaking up, I asked him how these costs compared to the grass and clover pastures that grew here naturally, without any plowing, seeding or fertilizers. In his booming voice, John immediately pipes up: “Gosh Darn It! How come the dumb beekeeper is the only one of us who asks a good question?” Thus, I gained a new friend and my reputation (dumb beekeeper) spread into yet another corner of the Champlain Valley.
About a year later, by sheer chance, I rented a house directly across the road from John and Bev’s farm. I lived there for many years, and this is where I did much of the work developing the apiary I have now. My headquarters was in an old building I rented from John. Driving to and from the beeyards every day for years, I had a front row seat, watching their dairy herd make the transition from total confinement, to a grazing-based system, and finally to full organic status; producing milk for the Organic Valley Co-op. At the same time, the farm went from near bankruptcy to one of the most profitable farms in Vermont. Before John decided to focus on grazing as a last ditch effort to stay in business and save the farm, he had followed every last recommendation made by the extension service; bought every kind of feed, fertilizer, insurance and supplement that was supposed to keep the farm solvent, and borrowed every dollar he could get his hands on to pay for it all. By the time he realized that this whole system was bogus, and designed to keep food prices low while driving as many farmers as possible out of business–he was nearly half a million dollars in debt. When he started grazing his milk cows, and his expenses started to drop for the first time ever, he realized that everything he needed to succeed as a farmer had always been there on the farm, right under his nose the whole time. From then on he said that his only goal was to just “let the cows be cows.” You could say that the farm became obsessed with the idea that young pasture regrowth was the best, and nearly the only necessary food for weaned cattle of all ages and types. Even during the five months of winter feeding, his milking cows lived mostly on grass silage made from multiple cuttings of young grass and clover.
Once John saw that he needed to start thinking for himself, and ask his cows for advice instead of the extension service, his deep love for his farm and his animals started to really pay off, and he went from success to success. He was always innovating, finding new ways to increase the fertility of the farm, to drive expenses down still further, and to make a better life for his family and employees. After a few years, I started referring to the place as “the buffalo prairie”. The young stock lived outside all year round, even in the deepest snow and cold. They would stockpile long rows of round bales about fifteen feet apart on high spots in a different pasture each winter, so the cattle could eat and shelter from the wind without much more attention than they got while grazing during the summer. Even the milking cattle spent the worst part of the winter in open air sheds on a comfortable bedding pack–eating grass silage and waiting to be milked twice a day. As far as I could tell, none of this had any deleterious effect on the animals–quite the opposite. Their cows of all ages moved around the pastures like herds of wildebeest, compared to my other neighbor whose confinement cows could barely walk. One veterinarian I know told me: “We don’t know what’s going on at Rutter’s anymore–we never go there.” The good health and growing self-sufficiency of John and Bev’s cattle allowed them to expand their herd for several years in a row, without adding more labor. John finally reached a limit here imposed by the State of Vermont–but his farm became a convincing demonstration that successful organic farming is not necessarily a function of the farm size; just like Joe and Kath’s farm described above.
As far as I know, once they switched to organics, there was never anything going on at the Rutter farm that was harmful to honeybees–unless you count mowing some of the hay crops before the clovers had a chance to bloom. But even there, the grazing of all the land at various times had built up a huge bank of low-growing white clover and birdsfoot trefoil that could spring back and start to bloom again just a couple of weeks after cutting, when conditions were good. By rotating the pastures, there were always blocks in every different stage of regrowth. This provided a continuous resource for the bees from mid-June thru September. In years when clover was yielding heavily, the weight gains could be quite dramatic. I never had a full honey producing beeyard at my rented home there–other beekeepers already had yards in the area. But I would usually bring a few nucs to the house in mid-June. When they were beginning to crowd one hive body in mid-July, I often put excluders on them and then honey supers. In a good year even these late starts could store 100-150 lbs. of honey above the excluders.
As John watched the health of his animals and his farm improve with organics, he became more and more interested in how health was built in the whole cycle–including people. They had never taken the time to grow a vegetable garden of their own, so they greatly appreciated the stuff I’d bring them from my own gardens. John especially liked heads of lettuce: “I don’t even wash them,” he’d boast, “I just cut them in half and eat the whole thing. That dirt is probably good for me!” Alas, it wasn’t enough. John died way before his time, from complications of diabetes and other long standing metabolic problems. We lost a great champion of organic dairy farming who still had a lot to share with the farming community. If this world could ever make any claim to fairness, John should have been able to enjoy his farming success for many years to come. When he became too ill to work outside the house, he did enjoy having visitors, and I tried to stop a couple of times each week. On one occasion he told me that once they finally got onto the full organic program and were receiving the organic price, “It was as if a tidal wave of money hit this farm.” By the time John was sidelined, they had paid off all their debts, made whatever improvements they wanted to the buildings and machinery, “and we still have $10,000.00 every month we just don’t know what to do with.” Also at this time, Journey’s Hope Farm was included in a study comparing the economics of several Vermont dairy farms. In the report, each farm was described in great economic detail, but the real names and actual locations of all the farms were not revealed. At his final meeting with the University of Vermont professor who authored the report, John was told: “As far as we know, yours is the most profitable dairy farm in Vermont.” And since the day John told me that story, I’ve never doubted that organic farming is superior to conventional farming in every way. The bees can prove it, and so can the books.
(After John’s death, Beverly sold the farm and retired. The farm is still being run along similar lines today by the new owners–one of four brothers from a Dutch dairy farming family based in the nearby town of Panton.)
Mike Eastman–Mike’s Farm
The third farmer and farm in my county that all beekeepers should look to as an example of what the rural environment could look like in the future is a dairy farm belonging to Mike Eastman in the town of Addison. In his lifelong quest to make a nice life in farming for himself and his family, Mike has created a profitable farm that could hardly be any more elegantly simple and straightforward to manage. The economic and biological resilience of his farm is impressive in other ways as well. Farms based on borrowing and high input costs would never have survived some of the setbacks and difficulties that Mike has taken in stride. I’ve known Mike for several years, but I wasn’t quite prepared for his answer when I asked him how he first got interested in farming. His very first memories, at age two, are of cows eating grass. His parents were not farmers, but his first home in the village of West Rutland was surrounded by farms. His grandfather was one of the last of the old-time blacksmiths–shoeing horses and doing all the old ironwork necessary on farms of those days. Growing up watching his neighbors’ cows living almost entirely on pasture and hay, Mike already had it in his mind that this was the proper place and food for cows. By the time he was eleven, he could milk his neighbor’s herd by himself, and from that time on spent most of his free time working on different farms and saving all the money, so that he could have his own farm someday. He studied agriculture at college in Maine, and continued saving from his summer jobs. He eventually worked on several farms, gaining exposure to many different practices and ideas. His schooling focused on conventional farming, but his experience told him that the high-input feeds like corn silage were not good for the cows, and that the economics of buying and borrowing would always be marginal.
In the mid-’80’s, Mike found the two missing links in the chain he was forging to pull himself up as an independent farmer. That’s when Bill Murphy at the University of Vermont first began promoting rotational grazing as the basis of profitable milk production. (See his book: Greener Pastures on Your Side of the Fence.) Most farmers at first thought Bill Murphy was nuts, but Mike could see right away that this was the way to return to his original vision of cows eating grass–and the way to establish himself as a solvent farmer. At the same time, Mike found a viable situation to launch his own farming career in Hinesburg, Vermont. With the cash he had saved over many years, he bought a retiring farmer’s herd of 100 Holstein milking cows and just enough machinery to make grass silage and haul manure–and then rented the farm with a five year lease. The terms were favorable, the milk was produced at very low cost, and Mike began saving again for a down payment on a farm of his own. In 1996, when he could put down enough money to keep his mortgage payments equal to his former lease payments, he bought his present farm in Addison, and immediately began converting it from a conventional corn silage and alfalfa dairy to an organic grazing farm. Despite a tough year right out of the gate–when it rained constantly, half the farm was just corn stubble, and all the alfalfa had winterkilled–Mike and his family remained solvent and forward-looking on the farm. The following year, as the new grass filled in and stress levels declined, they began building a large new freestall barn as extra money became available.
Mike’s Farm (that’s actually the farm name), is even simpler today than it was twenty years ago. They decided it was more pleasant and just as profitable to feed and milk fifty cows themselves than to milk 100 with hired help. They went back to milking in the tie-stall barn because it was much healthier and comfortable for both the milkers and the cows. The herd is now entirely grass fed–which lowered production, but also saves labor and brings the highest milk price. The cows are fed entirely on pasture as long as the ground is accessible, and on dry hay whenever snow and ice prevent the cows from finding their own grass. Only one cutting of hay is taken from just a part of the farm each year, and all the grassland is available for grazing every year if necessary. Even with the current slump in organic milk prices, Mike is getting paid $40/hundredweight with very few expenses; while conventional farms in this area are being crushed alive by huge expenses for debt, interest and inputs–and receiving only $16/hundredweight for their milk.
Amazingly, Mike and his farm have also survived a divorce where he had to pay his ex-wife half the value of the farm over ten years. Divorce is always a sad and devastating blow on the farm. But grass-based organic farming has soldiered through this obstacle as well. Mike has finished his alimony payments now and his son, Tom, has joined him full-time on the farm as a career. Mike is still on track to achieve his most important goal–leaving a debt-free farm to his son. This might be the best testament of all to the incredible strength and resilience of farming in Nature’s image. It’s really the only hope for a future with healthy rural communities, healthy bees and healthy people who could repair a struggling civilization.
Like the other two farms I’ve profiled here, Mike’s Farm is of course a paradise for honeybees. He broadcast and drilled some legume seeds when he first reseeded the corn stubble and winterkilled alfalfa, but he says that most of the plants that grow on his farm now came from seeds and roots that he neither bought nor planted. The seeds were there in the ground, and they germinated when conditions were right. By eating parts of the plants, pressing other parts into the soil with their hooves, and spreading their manure all over the farm, the cattle encouraged legumes to grow everywhere. Red clover, white clover, alsike clover, ladino clover, birdsfoot trefoil, purple vetch, alfalfa–these are the ones I’ve seen growing there myself; in different proportions each year depending on conditions. Cattle grazing on grass and legumes, pushing plant stems into the ground with their feet and spreading manure behind them is the basis of health, soil fertility… and honey crops, here where I live.
Mike’s Farm is a big square–so a beeyard in the middle of his farm can get most of their food from clean and abundant land. Once again, another beekeeper has occupied this spot for many years–so I’ve never been able to put bees there myself…Rats!
People like the three families I’ve profiled here, in addition to their other vital work, are the only people who can provide us with abundant good pasture for honeybees in the future. And it all comes as a by-product of their work as organic farmers. Science, as it is currently organized, can only help us here and there–as Bill Murphy certainly did. The example of just one successful organic farm, functioning as an ecosystem, is more helpful to bees and beekeepers now than all the bee research done in a year put together. The simple idea behind this essay is that the beekeeping community should focus on supporting organic farms and organic farmers any and every way we can. This is our only route to a healthy future–for our bees first, and then for us. The number of farms like these existing at the moment is dangerously small; if that number can grow, we have a chance.