Teaching Kids to Protect Our Pollinators

Pollinator Patch

This summer at North Wind Day Camp in Canton, New York, 49 curious and intrepid campers, ages 7-12, earned the Pollinator Patch created by Cabot Creamery Cooperative and KidsGardening. The free patch program was developed to help children understand the importance of pollinators in our world and teach them practical ways they can help protect and preserve pollinator populations.

Pollinator PatchSeventh generation Cabot farmer, Allison Akin, of Five Mile Farm in Lisbon, New York led the pollinator activities. The campers worked hard to earn their patches, but also had fun learning about pollinators and their vital importance in growing food for people and animals. They learned that more than 150 of our common food crops, from avocados to zucchini, rely on pollinators to move pollen among flowers and facilitate fertilization, which leads to the development of fruits and seeds. Pollination occurs not only with bees, but also hummingbirds, moths, bats, butterflies, flies, and beetles. They all ensure the continued existence of millions of plant species. The campers learned that one of every three mouthfuls of our food depend on pollinators.

How did they learn about the work of pollinators? With fun activities and games. “Be the Bee” is a game that demonstrates how pollinators work, going from plant to plant. It was also a great way for campers to get to know one another and work cooperatively. They learned about the anatomy of flowers from those growing around them and went on to color and label each plant. And they learned about ways they could encourage pollinators to thrive in their neighborhood by planting gardens that would attract and support a healthy pollinator community.

Pollinator Patch Be the Bee Capturing the imaginations and commitment of young campers with the activities required to earn the Pollinator Patch is one more way we can encourage the health and well being of our communities and our planet. If you or your organization would like to learn more about how your group can help children earn the Pollinator Patch, go to the Cabot website’s Pollinator page for more information.

Fall Cover Crop

cover crop

As we enter the fall here in Vermont there are a few big tasks on my to-do list before putting the gardens to bed for the season: 1) Keep up with harvesting. 2) Plant garlic. 3) Plant cover crop.

I plant a fall cover crop (this year I chose winter rye) on many of our empty beds (having already harvested one-off crops such as cabbage, kohlrabi, potatoes, and carrots from them) for a variety of reasons: to prevent erosion, to reduce the growth of weeds throughout the fall, and to add organic matter (i.e. nutrients) back into the garden beds.

I try to plant cover crop sometime in late August or early September, giving the seeds over a month to germinate and grow before our first frost typically hits, usually in mid-October. The later you plant your cover crop the greater the chance of the crop dying over the winter, as opposed to going dormant. Ideally you want your cover crop to enter this period of dormancy and then resume growth come the spring.

As the spring progresses you’ll want to keep an eye on your cover crop—you’ll definitely want to mow it or cut it down before it begins to produce seed! Leave the plant material to decompose on top of the bed for a week or so, before tilling it in. Wait another week or two and then you’re ready to plant in a nutrient-rich bed!

If you’re interested in learning about specific varieties of cool-season cover crops to plant this fall you can check out this helpful article from Modern Farmer. Alternatively, if you live in a warmer climate that doesn’t have cold and snowy winters like we do in New England, you can check out our Buckwheat Growing Guide to learn about warm-season cover crops. And if you’re interested in learning more about all aspects of cover crops, I recommend SARE’s (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) Cover Crop Topic Room.