Sran Family Orchards becomes first Bee Better Certified grower

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Sran Family Orchards have planted miles of hedgerows that include native shrubs such as California lilac, as well as acres of flowering habitat to support bees in the almond orchards. / Photo: Sran Family Orchards

KERMAN, CA – Sran Family Orchards, the world’s largest grower of organic almonds, has long committed to sustainable farming, with flower-rich pollinator habitat an integral part of the almond orchards. This investment recently paid off when Sran Family Orchards gained certification as a Bee Better Certified grower.

“By being Bee Better Certified we are assured that we are being guided by the highest standards of the very best possible program in place for bees’ future,” said Jason Hickman of Sran Family Orchards. “Because we understand the importance of bees and their diversity within the food system, we saw the need here at Sran Family Orchards to do our part in giving the bees the most beneficial diet.”

“We’re thrilled to welcome Sran Family Orchards to the Bee Better Certified community,” said Cameron Newell, Bee Better Certified Coordinator for the Xerces Society.

Bee Better Certified is the only third-party food and farming certification program in the world focused specifically on pollinator conservation. With the goal of giving bees a healthy place to live, the program was launched in June 2017 by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation in collaboration with national nonprofit organic certifier, Oregon Tilth.

Jason Hickman and his team at Sran Family Orchards started their work to protect bees and other pollinators years ago. With 23.5 acres of permanent pollinator habitat and 116 acres of flowering cover crops spread strategically across their 10 ranches, they knew that Bee Better Certified would be a good fit for them.

“It was these extensive habitat plantings that allowed them to adapt so quickly and to become the very first Bee Better Certified farm,” noted Newell.

Bee Better Certified’s focus on habitat is unique among farm certification programs, yet compatible with any farming operation. All growers wanting to be certified are required to dedicate part of their land to flowering habitat and mitigate exposure to pesticides through a combination of preventative pest management techniques and the elimination of high-risk pesticides.

“As the first grower to achieve this certification, Sran Family Orchards has established itself as a clear leader, moving the almond industry toward a future in sustainable production,” said Eric Lee-Mäder, who as the Xerces Society’s Pollinator Program Co-Director has guided the development of the Bee Better Certified program.

Oregon Tilth, partner in the development of the Bee Better Certified program standards, assesses and certifies farms based on habitat created and pest management strategies that protect crop pollinators.

“The heart of any certification program is strong, credible and achievable standards,” said Oregon Tilth Certification Director Connie Karr. “Bee Better Certified is unique in how the requirements for getting certification blends together the technical know-how of Xerces with verifiable and accessible farm production practices. Sran Family Orchards demonstrates how holistic, systems-based thinking on farms can lead to farm resilience and success.”

Reprinted from Xerces Society news release.