You might know that bees pollinate plants and flowers. But did you know bees play a crucial role in our modern agriculture system?
By: Melissa Montalvo
Farmers use bees to pollinate many of the foods we enjoy, such as apples, almonds, and oranges. They are a fundamental piece of our food production. For years, environmentalists have been ushering “Save the Bee” movements to educate the public on the role of bees for a healthy ecosystem. Meanwhile, we’re seeing bees die out due to sudden colony collapses, hazardous insecticides and pesticides, and habitat loss.
Illinois-based entrepreneur, Abdullah Motiwala, understands that farmers and bees have a symbiotic relationship. “People [are] saying, save the bees, hashtag save the bees. You know, there aren’t many people saying hashtag save the farmers,” says Motiwala.
As the founder of Heaven’s Honey, Motiwala is on a mission to help save the bees and also help local farmers increase their profits through honey. Heaven’s Honey works with over 25 farmers and beekeepers to put in place bee-friendly farming practices. “We create a mutual strategy to ensure that we are avoiding harmful chemicals and pesticides to the bees. We have a pest and mite management system to avoid physical defects caused by pests to bees,” explains Motiwala. “[We] plant native flowers for diversity of seasonal flowers so the bees have a plethora of different floral sources, providing a source of water for the bees to drink and bathe.”
In the same vein that our agriculture system depends on bees, bees rely on farmers to create a healthy environment on their farms. This means reducing the pesticide and insecticide use as well as growing plants that provide a bee-friendly habitat. “No farmer wants to take their bees to crops that have pesticides but unfortunately that is a norm in the farming industry,” explains Motiwala.
Ultimately, Motiwala’s mission is to help farmers earn a meaningful income from their honey sales, while also working with farmers on their bee-friendly sustainability efforts.
While a seemingly simple solution, the challenge is huge. One threat to local farmers’ honey business is the plethora of cheap, imported honey available in grocery stores. Local honey simply can’t compete with the low price of imported alternatives. “There’s so much honey coming in from so many different parts of the world. [It] is being flooded in our retail chains, and our grocery stores and our mom and pop stores,” explains Motiwala.
What many consumers don’t realize is that there are lax oversights on how imported honey labels itself. Motiwala believes that “consumers are being deceived by labeling that says “raw,” that says “pure,” that says all these different sorts of things on the label.”
As consumers, we can be part of the solution to help both save the bees while supporting local farmers. Buying raw local honey from companies like Heaven’s Honey has a positive ripple effect in the community. First, it benefits the overall wellbeing of bees and strengthens the local ecosystem. It also keeps money in the community by supporting local farmers. The benefits extend to consumers. Eating local, raw honey is known to have health benefits, such as antioxidants and helping reduce seasonal allergies.
The long-term goal of Heaven’s Honey’s is to take their farmer-friendly model to other states. Motiwala believes this model can provide farmers with a meaningful source of income while also creating a more sustainable farming environment for bees.