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Rick Worthington Bee Farm Creating Buzz
by Rick Worthington, click here for bio

Program: Farm and Ranch Report
Date: July 19, 2018

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Bees are enjoying their days in the sun on a clean-energy farm in southern Oregon.

The Eagle Point solar farm outside Medford is the largest "solar apiary" (a-pee-air-ee) in the country, incorporating designs that benefit pollinators. It's home to 48 bee colonies interspersed among solar panels, which are generating enough energy to power more than 2,100 homes and farms in the area - annually.

Rob Davis, who directs the Center for Pollinators and Energy said this isn't just a potted plant in the corner of a 40-acre field.

"It does obviously recognize that these are managed landscapes and that the site is first and foremost an energy-generation facility," he said. "But within that context, there are significant ways to manage the vegetation so that it's incrementally and meaningfully beneficial to honeybees and all the native pollinators and wildlife."

John Jacob, owner of Old Sol Apiaries, said bees and other pollinators face immense pressures right now, in some cases dying off at catastrophic rates. He says one issue on farms is pesticides.

"A lot of the crops we get paid to go to are sprayed, and while it's a good income for commercial beekeepers, the downside is that it places a significant amount of stress on honeybee colonies," he said. "So these are places where we can take our bees to help their overall health and to recover from their pollination duties."

Jacob said healthy hives also help surrounding farms. Bees' growing scarcity is driving up pollination costs for farmers. The honeybees at Eagle Point are producing a lot of honey too, averaging 100 to 200 pounds of per colony. The rest of Josephine County colonies average about 30 to 40 pounds.

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