Where the bees are: the Pollinator Pals Project

Guest Editorial
Nobody seems to know exactly why it’s happening, but there is no getting around the fact that a significant drop in the native bee population has taken place in just the last few years.  In fact, honeybee populations appear to be down by some 40 to 50 percent since 2004 alone.  A group of Sonoma Valley residents, who call themselves “the Pollinator Pals,” is working to create awareness about the problem, as well as develop a pollinator friendly environment throughout the Valley.  This broadly-based collaborative is seeking the involvement of the entire community – from children in grade school on up to seniors.  Their project will launch from the Cittaslow booth at this year’s Vintage Festival.

The timing of the launch -– to coincide with the Vintage Festival on September 25 and 26 – is ideal as September 26 is the first official “Cittaslow Sunday” sponsored by Cittaslow International.  Cittaslow Sunday is the brain child of Gianluca Marconi, president of Cittaslow International, who many Sonomans met in January when he came to designate Sonoma Valley as the first Cittaslow in the U.S. Cittaslow International is encouraging its members around the world to create a special project in honor of Terra Madre, or Mother Earth.

Cittaslow Sonoma Valley has chosen the preservation of pollinators – particularly native bees.  In celebration of this theme, the Cittaslow booth will feature the sale of organic ice cream made with local Sonoma Valley honey.  While enjoying ice cream, the public will be able talk to local “bee professors” who will explain what can be done to help.  Samples of pollinator friendly plants will be on display, and a bee observation box will be on site so that all can see what actually happens in a honeybee colony.

The Pollinator Pals, or Cittaslow Pollinator Stewards Collaborative as the group is more formally known, has been formulating its proposed programs since the first of the year. While formally launching the Pollinator Pals project this month, the group has already been hard at work both locally and internationally.  Members of the group participated by providing expert testimony prior to the recent Sonoma City Council decision to allow bee-keeping within City limits. And in the spring, youth from Sonoma Charter School’s leadership program did fundraising for the Wukro White Honey project in Ethiopia, which is a Slow Food International Terra Madre project supporting sustainable agriculture as a means of creating jobs and a more vibrant local economy for this poverty stricken community.

Plans are underway this year for children at El Verano School to participate with Ethiopian children in a global education “school twinning” partnership with the Wukro White Honey project.  Stay tuned for more.

Alana Coburn

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