Posts Tagged: small farm
So, you want to be a commercial beekeeper...
Perhaps you want to sell honey and beeswax, rent your bees for commercial crop pollination, rear queen bees, or sell bulk bees.
The newly published second edition of the Small Farm Handbook, which draws on the knowledge of 32 experts from the University of California, contains a wealth of information. The chapter, "Raising Animals," covers beekeeping as a business.
“Costs to start a beekeeping business are not particularly high compared to many small businesses, and a well-planned and managed operation can be profitable,” writes Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
“Beekeepers own, rent or find rent-free apiary locations where their bees can forage for food without becoming a nuisance to humans or livestock. Beekeepers must manage their colonies to the benefit of the bees and in compliance with existing state, county and municipal ordinances.”
For those who want to rent bees for pollination, “rental rates are as much as 10 times higher for almond orchards, which need to be pollinated a time of year when bee supplies barely meet demand.”
Indeed, California has some 750,000 acres of almonds, and each acre needs two colonies for pollination. Since the Golden State doesn't have that many bees, they are trucked in from all over the country.
"Fifty percent of the bees in the United States have to be in California to pollinate the almonds," molecular biologist and biochemist Joseph DeRisi of UC San Francisco said Jan. 9 at his lecture in the Genome and Biomedical Sciences Facility at UC Davis.
DeRisi, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and professor and vice chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at UCSF, pointed out that “California supplies 80 percent of the world's almond supply.”
No bees, no almonds.
“Beekeeping can sound deceptively simple,” Mussen writes in the chapter, “but in fact beekeeping is a form of animal husbandry that involves providing feed when nectar and pollens are lacking, preventing infections from various microbes, dealing with two well-established parasitic mites, and reducing the influence of Africanized bees. Before you try to keep bees commercially on your own, you should gain experience working with a commercial beekeeper for one or more seasons.”
The latest parasite discovered in bees is the parasitic phorid fly (Apocephalus borealis). In work published Jan. 3 in the Public Library of Science (PLoS One) journal, San Francisco State University researchers wrote that the parasitic fly lays its eggs in the honey bees; it was previously known to parasitize bumble bees, but not honey bees.
The fly-infested bees display altered bee behavior. Nicknamed “zombie bees,” the bees fly at night toward lights, such as porch, building or street lights. They do not return to the hive; they die.
Neither Mussen nor DeRisi believes that the parasitic fly is a dominant factor in colony collapse disorder, a mysterious phenomenon characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive.
For tips on beekeeping, be sure to check out Mussen's bimonthly newsletter, from the UC Apiaries, and his other resource, Bee Briefs, both posted on the UC Davis Department of Entomology website.
And if you want to become an full-time commercial beekeeper, read the “Estimated Investment Needed for a 1,000-Colony Bee Operation” in the Small Farm Handbook.
Honey bee heading for almond blossoms, spring of 2011, at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The queen and her court at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Small-scale lamb producer featured in Sac Bee
Dan Macon, a Placerville lamb rancher who last year received UC's Pedro Ilic Award for outstanding farmer, was the subject of a human interest feature in today's Sacramento Bee.The article said Macon is among Placer County's most successful and sustainable meat purveyors. He sells his product to local restaurants and as part of the Sierra Foothills Meat Buyers Club.
In addition to producing meat, Macon contracts with other farmers to "mow" their cover crops.
Director of UC Cooperative Extension in Placer and Nevada counties, Roger Ingram, told reporter Niesha Lofing that such sustainable farming efforts are what set Macon apart.
"He thinks of the community even before himself," Ingram was quoted. "I think that Dan symbolizes that there is potential out there (for small farm operations)."
Dan Macon, with Shermain Hardesty of the Small Farm Program, receives the Pedro Ilic Award.
Small farming is a lifestyle worth preserving
Farming is a life of sacrifice, but a part of Americana that should be protected, according to speakers at the California Small Farm Conference, held earlier this month in San Diego.
“You need to know the odds are against you," Michael O’Gorman, executive director of the UC Davis Farmer Veteran Coalition, told young farmers, according to an account published yesterday by the San Diego News Network. FVC helps returning veterans find employment, training and places to heal on America’s farms.
O’Gorman said farmers too often under estimate the value of their services and their contribution to the economy. He encouraged young farmers to be competitive and ethical in developing their businesses.The article quoted Penny Leff of the UC Small Farm Agricultural Tourism Program in Davis as saying that agritourism “is putting a value on the [farming] experience.” She told farmers that the public wants to experience farm life and they’re willing to pay for it.
Leff sees tourism as a means for farmers to increase profits as well as to educate the community about farming. Creating relationships between farmers and community members is critical for farmers’ success, according to the Network article, authored by Susan Russo.
The three-day conference included speeches by Rayne Pegg, administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and A.G. Kawamura, Secretary of California Department of Food and Agriculture.
The California Small Farm Conference featured many UC speakers.
An A-Plus for "The B Guy"
Eric Mussen is used to fielding questions about honey bees--how and why they gather nectar, honey, propolis and water; how many eggs a queen bee can...
Writer retracts criticism of Small Farm Program move
Harry Cline, a longtime ag reporter who writes a weekly column for Western Farm Press, devoted space this week to counter a commentary he published last fall lamenting the ANR decision to close the Small Farm Program. In the column that ran yesterday, Cline noted that the program is not dead; rather its administrative services have been merged into another office.
Cline wrote that UC ANR vice president Dan Dooley and others pointed out the mistake. Dooley told Cline that the goal is to limit administrative costs and provide more support for farm advisors and specialists.
"ANR has taken some disproportionate cuts since the mid 1990s, and Dooley stopped that bleeding," Cline wrote. "Not one farm advisor or specialist position has been eliminated under his watch."
However, the article also said ANR and Cooperative Extension won't return to their old staffing levels because the ag industry has changed in the past 25 years. Today, business professionals - like pest control advisers and private dairy nutritionists - do some of the work that used to be part of farm advisors' jobs.
“The university is being asked to work on bigger issues such as water and water quality, and this is changing the roles of advisors and specialists," Dooley was quoted.
Dan Dooley, center, with Beth Grafton-Cardwell, left, and Barbara Allen Diaz.