Pollinator Forage Development

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2011: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: Western
State: New Mexico
Principal Investigator:
Heather Harrell
For the Love of Bees
Les Crowder
For the Love of Bees

Annual Reports


  • Animals: bees


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, animal protection and health, housing
  • Crop Production: windbreaks
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, mentoring, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, hedgerows
  • Production Systems: holistic management, organic agriculture, permaculture


    This project began in 2011 as an effort to support educational development in the study of honeybees and pollinator habitat.  For the Love of Bees Farm is a four acre certified organic farm located in Penasco, NM.  Our farm land is in the mountains at an altitude of 7600 feet. The natural landscape is a mixture of high desert pinon/juniper and lush spring fed valleys filled with native grasses and wildflowers. Because our natural setting is already supportive of pollinators, we thought it would be an ideal location to experiment with a wide variety of plantings in support of pollinators, with the idea of creating a long succession of blooms that would provide both pollen and nectar over the spring, summer, and fall seasons.  

    This project was envisioned due to the profound effects of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) on the world of beekeeping. Commercial agriculture has proven to be very hard on pollinators of all kinds, and many of them have disappeared entirely. The beekeeping world is still experiencing massive losses, and although the causes of CCD continue to be researched, there is no clear agreement in the world of science and research about how to turn the problem around. Hence, organic producers, such as ourselves, have turned to the idea of building healthy habitats for pollinators in areas that are still somewhat protected from environmental degradation. The hope behind this idea is to create small pockets of resistance to CCD, where honeybees and other pollinators can survive and persist into the future.


    We began our project by purchasing a large number of trees, shrubs, perennials, and cover crop seeds to develop our land. Some of the species were purely experimental, and we chose them based on research into their blooming habit, with the thought that they might provide unique sources of nectar or pollen for our site. Other species were already established as beneficial plants for pollinators, and we chose them in order to have a wide representation of plants on display for visitors and students. In the first year, we made great strides in our project; doing lots of planting and establishing irrigation and infrastructure to support the plantings.

    Simultaneously, we began to develop a stronger outreach program for our work. With the help of Western SARE, as well as the Santa Fe Community Foundation and the McCune Foundation, we worked hard to write a book on using organic methods in top-bar hives. Our book was published by Chelsea Green Publishing in 2012 and includes an extensive section on Planting For Bees. We also made a DVD on Top-Bar Beekeeping that features a section on Planting for Bees. To date, the book has sold many thousands of copies and has garnered wonderful reviews. We have continued to lead farm tours, teach classes, and generally spread the word about supporting pollinators through organic methods.  Each year, we plant more annuals, perennials, and cover crops to support the honeybees and the pollinator life around us.

    Project objectives:

    The main objectives of this project were threefold:

    • To develop our farm as a pollinator forage species demonstration site, with a wide diversity of plantings that provide a continuous source of nectar and pollen through the active season.
    • To provide education and outreach to students and the general public concerning honeybee and pollinator health and welfare. We did this through having multiple farm tours, leading classes on beneficial plantings, and teaching classes on top-bar beekeeping. We also teach classes on organic farming techniques.
    • To publish a book on using organic methods in top-bar beekeeping, which included a list of plants that are useful in supporting honeybee health and longevity.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.