Organic Certification Approval

Agraria Farm was designated a certified organic farm on May 11, 2012.

Applying earlier this year, we submitted our application, completed the certification and inspection process. Although we have used organic practices for many decades, we learned a good deal putting together our ‘organic system plan’. We enjoyed getting to know our certifier, Baystate Organic Certifiers and are grateful for their expertise with the regulations.

Organic – vegetables, flowers, herbs, fruit, mushrooms, & eggs.  Producer ID: 12082.

 

 

 

 

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our bees in Kew video

Here is a really great bee video to educate people on bees – and a shot of our farm is included – although most of the video takes place at Kew Gardens and in London. Check out Colin and Agraria’s barn here – just a fleeting shot!

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2017 honey

honey 1 - 16ozMany of you have been calling about our honey. We have not harvested yet this season. Our hives have been building beautiful, healthy colonies, but have not added much to our surplus honey supers! We hope to harvest at the end of September. As always contact us for more information.

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bee nectar flow, genetics and diversity

Agraria has been focused on managing our bees more intensely this year – due to fluctuating weather conditions, early swarms and irregular blooming cycles.

2017-08-08 14.57.15Late July and August bring in the Clethra or sweet pepper bush nectar flow. It’s one of our favorite times of year – as you can really see the bees going out to bring nectar in. We have loads of this growing wild along the roadsides in our small town and the fragrance is intoxicating. Our bees have had a slow season to gather honey – enough to harvest for sale.

We’ve been a bit concerned as this delay in gathering quantities of honey has never happened in the decade plus we’ve been keeping bees.  Our priority has been to manage healthy hives – we are treatment free and an organic farm – so we put bee health above all else.

The modern honey bee – not native to our continent – has been bred to be larger to produce more honey. Unfortunately like so many other things – modern agriculture – tweaking mother nature translates into unforeseen problems.  The US closed it’s borders to bee imports in the 1920’s and since there has been a steady decline in bee diversity. The gene pool has been limited and so our bees do not have resistance against the varroa mite. In other countries, Russia for example, bees have developed a resistance to the mites. This has been accomplished through natural selection not in using miticides.

Fortunately scientists here have begun to work on developing a deeper gene pool for the American honeybee. Researches at Washington State University have discovered that the vulnerability is due to a dwindling gene pool that has limited genetic traits to build mite resistance. Read more here.

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bees making honey

dkhoneyframe

So many people ask us – “How do bees make honey?”  Most people know that bees forage for nectar and pollen up to 5 miles out from the hive. It is the nectar from which honey is made – and the mix of flowers will determine the color, aroma and flavor of the honey. Often we can taste some of what our bees have been foraging on – our sweet pepper bush, buckwheat, herbs, and so on. But it is a complex mix – it is estimated that nectar from more than 2 million flowers make up a pound of honey – that is each bee must visit between 150 – 1500 flowers. Each bee can carry up to 70 mg in its honey stomach.

It is the sexually immature female forging bees that collect the nectar with their tongues and carry it in their honey stomach as opposed to their digestive stomach. It is mixed with bee enzymes as the bee returns to the hive where a house bee retrieves the honey in a mouth to mouth transfer. This house bees chew on the nectar and mix it with more enzymes, an inversion process where the complex sugars are broken down into more simple and digestible sugars. Because of its low water content and high sugar concentration – the honey will not spoil – making it a stable food with an eternal shelf life.

Once complete this liquid is placed in the wax honeycomb where the bees begin to reduce the water percentage from 80% down to around 17% water. They do this by maintaining a hive temperature of 95 degrees and continually fan the honeycomb to evaporate the water content. Lastly the honeycomb is capped and honey is stored for future use.

Honey supplies most of the vitamins, nutrient, lipid, and mineral needs for the bees survival. It is made up of:

  • about 82% carbohydrates – mainly fructose and glucose;
  • about 18 different amino acids;
  • a variety of vitamins and minerals – Vitamins B, B6, C, calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, magnesium, chromium;
  • antioxidants;
  • flavonoids.

Amazing bees – amazing honey!

Agraria’s honey harvest is near for 2017 – we’ll keep you posted on our progress and let you know when our honey is available.

bee products 1 2017

 

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summer butterflies

Papilio-polyxenes-photo-4

In our bramble and berry beds we have a lot of volunteer milkweed. Generally we let it flower – as it is a favorite of monarchs, our honeybees, bumblebees, and all sorts of pollinators.

Today we found a beautiful Black Swallowtail butterfly, Papilio polyxenes. The photo above are from the Massachusetts Butterfly Club – check out this species here.

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saving our bees and ecosystem

At Agraria we’ve had an intense time this spring and early summer working our small apiary. We had a good deal of early swarming – something we try to manage for – but for a variety of reasons were not able to this year. Fortunately we did manage to capture most of our swarms and our hives have settled down into the summer routine of collecting pollen and nectar.

As we continually monitor the hives  – we stay connected to work being done that protects the health of these pollinators, as well as our ecosystem.  Our favorite mushroom guy, Paul Stamets has teamed up with an entomologist, Steve Sheppard, from the University of Washington to research the use of mushroom extracts to combat bee viruses and the varroa mites affecting bees. These extracts are anti-viral and actually add to the longevity of bees.

This seems like a wonderfully sustainable method to aid bee health. Over the years we have collected a variety of methods to help us manage these pest and diseases. This new thinking is a vision of hope for our bees and ecosystem.

Check out the YouTube video, Saving The Bees.  july bee

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summer on the farm 2017

2017-06-07 19.55.35 HDRWith the solstice, summer officially arrives on the scene this week. Here on the farm dealing with the vagaries of climate and weather, we are hyper-sensitive to the nuances of the growing world.

Early heat and prolonged rainy periods have already had an affect – early flushes of shiitakes, heavy swarming from our hives,  and strawberries ripening quickly.

We no longer listen to the weather forecasts – we just tune into what’s going on around us at Agraria….

basket straw2017-05-29 11.24.23

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why we need to deal with our plastics addiction

Sometimes I feel as though there are too many things to ‘care’ about – too many things we should all do to make the world a better place – too many things we need to do to ensure a viable planet for future generations….

Plastics – our consumption of, everyday use of and discarding of – is one such overwhelming issue.  As a child I can remember the first toys made of plastic in the 1950’s – they weren’t cuddly, they were somewhat crude and they didn’t seem lifelike. Fast forward 60+ years and look around – plastic is everywhere.

The author, Margaret Atwood has written a wonderful piece for The Guardian, check it out.

I’m not certain what the answer is – we are careful on the farm to be thoughtful about what we use – plastic is ubiquitous. But I agree with Atwood – when you look at the evidence – plastics are poisoning us – we need change now.

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Spring finally…

2017-05-01 17.41.31Spring is finally here – on the farm it seemed to really happen this last week – bulbs and fruit trees blooming, bees buzzing, birds nesting, and asparagus peeking it’s tips above ground. Forget about weather predictions, calendar dates or astronomical calculations  – when I can experience it I know it’s here!

Always an inspiring time to see everything just burst and abundance begins again. Wow!

Through the end of May we’ll be offering: eggs, honey, asparagus, rhubarb, shiitake mushrooms, and early herbs (lovage, chives, parsley).

july bee copymushrooms3asparagus

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Spring products from the farm

2017-03-09 14.38.42Spring has definitely arrived on the farm – despite the wild weather rollercoaster – our crocuses, snowdrops and hellebores are in bloom!

We are looking forward to a new growing year and offering our farm products!

 

bee products 1 2017

We’ve been working on a few new things – in addition to our honey – we have a beeswax bar, lip balm, and bee skep candles. We have limited amounts – as these are all small batch and handcrafted here at Agraria. It’s been a wild winter for our bees with these temperature fluctuations, so we are pleased to offer these products while they last.

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