By Cameron Newell, Bee Better Certified Program Coordinator
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.”
Bee Better Certified was developed with the support of an advisory board comprised of experts in the fields of agriculture, certification, pesticide risk mitigation, pollinator research, retail and sustainable sourcing. Startup funding was received through the Conservation Innovation Grant program run by U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
About Bee Better Certified
Bee Better Certified is creating better places for bees. The program works with farmers to create, restore, and protect habitat for pollinators. Bee Better Certified farms contain flower-rich habitats that are protected from pesticides. To learn more, visit beebettercertified.org.
Bee Better Certified™ is a trademark of the Xerces Society, Inc.
For information about creating pollinator habitat on farms, visit https://xerces.org/pollinator-conservation/
About the Xerces Society
The Xerces Society is a nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat. Established in 1971, the Society is a trusted source for science-based information and advice. We collaborate with people and institutions at all levels and our work to protect pollinators encompasses all landscapes. Our team draws together experts from the fields of habitat restoration, entomology, botany, and conservation biology with a single focus—protecting the life that sustains us. To learn more about our work, visit www.xerces.org.
About Oregon Tilth
Oregon Tilth is a leading national nonprofit certifier, educator, and advocate for organic agriculture and products since 1974. Our mission to make our agriculture biologically sound and socially equitable requires us to find practical ways to tackle big challenges. We advance this mission to balance the needs of people and planet through focus on certification, conservation, policy, and the marketplace. For more on our mission and services, visit www.tilth.org.
About Sran Family Orchards
Since the 1950s, Sran Family Orchards has been focused on growing quality products and developing innovative processes. With roots as family farmers, we understand the unique needs of the grower, and have built this business model and a processing plant designed to serve those needs. Sran Family Orchards is the largest grower of organic almonds. This share of the market provides us a distinctive perspective and exciting opportunities to lead the way in modern processing techniques. With our system, we take almonds from shell to shelf while maintaining the highest quality product and providing the best value to the grower. For more about Sran Family Orchards, visit www.sranfamilyorchards.com.
As 2017 was drawing to a close, while many people were planning to fanfare the New Year, Sran Family Orchards quietly passed a different milestone: It became the first farm to become Bee Better Certified. Gaining this certification is recognition for the Sran family’s years of unheralded dedication, and we couldn’t be happier that Sran Family Orchards is the first farm to receive this accolade.
Sran Family Orchards is based in Kerman, California, in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, one of the world’s most intensively farmed regions and a landscape that offers little in the way of habitat for pollinators. This may seem an unlikely place to be home to the first Bee Better Certified grower, but the Sran family have a long-held commitment to sustainable farming—in particular supporting the bees that are central to the success of their harvest. With roots in the 1950s as a family farm growing row crops, successive generations of the family have built the company into the largest grower of organic almonds.
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
Sran Family Orchards operate ten orchards in Fresno and Madera counties. Recognizing the importance of diversity in the agricultural landscape, the Sran family started on a path to make their orchards better for bees long before the launch of Bee Better Certified.
Jason Hickman and his team at Sran Family Orchards have planted miles of hedgerows, which create nearly 24 acres of permanent pollinator habitat, and 116 acres of flowering understory plantings between their rows of almond trees, carpeting the ground with flowers and extending habitat deep into the orchards to make them more hospitable to bees. Xerces conservationist Jessa Kay Cruz helped with project planning.
With the advent of Bee Better Certified, Sran Family Orchards saw an opportunity to do more to help bees. In addition to habitat, the Bee Better Certified production standards require growers to mitigate exposure of bees to pesticides through a combination of preventative pest management techniques and the elimination of high-risk pesticides.
Bee Better Certified stands out as the only food and farming pollinator conservation certification program that requires third-party inspection. Farm assessment and certification is undertaken by Oregon Tilth, a leading national nonprofit certifier for organic agriculture and products, whose team of inspectors ensure that the process is rigorous and that standards are met.
As Jason Hickman noted, this certification program assures the Sran family and their company that they were being guided by the highest standards of the best program in place for bees’ future. By being Bee Better Certified, Sran Family Orchards have one more way to lead the almond industry in the direction of a more sustainable future.