A couple of summers ago we visited a small, out of the way lavender farm not far from Portland, Oregon called Lavender Thyme Herb Farm that grows and sells a wonderful variety of lavender as well as other plants and herbs.
As far as I know it doesn’t purport to be ‘organic’, but nor does the owner, Taffy, appear to use any chemicals (nor does she produce her own lavender oil, instead selling the whole plants). It is a small oasis in the midst of bland fields of crops that surround it on other farms. Taffy mentioned there had been a noticeable decline in butterflies in the area, apart from on her small property. I believe she was talking of the Monarch butterfly which I’m waiting for her to confirm. Perhaps the decline is due to the overuse of pesticides and the dearth of variety in the crops planted in the surrounding area? This is not a new phenomenon, Monarchs are in trouble: Saving the Monarch Butterfly
We weren’t actively noticing the butterflies and birds as we approached the farm along quiet country roads, but it was immediately apparent when we walked onto Taffy’s property that life was abundant and thriving. Trees provided much appreciated shade, birds and the beleaguered butterflies were flitting about constantly amongst the various plants. The lavender was predictably full of bees (they do seem to love blue flowers, and the pollen they provide), a hypnotic hum rose up from the plants in the baking sun.
Having read Feral recently by George Monbiot, I started thinking a little more about the pockets of vibrant growth in nature in the midst of a ‘desert’ of monoculture. There’s more and more awareness now of the effect on wildlife, including pollinators, when surrounded by tracts of single crops. Forget the lack of diversity for a minute, diversity which when it’s present is intriguing and stimulating, countering the ‘ecological boredom’ that Monbiot talks of. Important pollinators such as bees do not fly across vast open expanses – see this article in the National Geographic about habitat loss and pesticide danger: Bees in Peril. Inevitably it seems the swathes of crops planted in a monoculture fashion rely on pesticides and fertilisers to grow. Birds are not attracted to areas that offer little to no refuge from predators and the weather in the form of stands of trees, hedgerows or bushes, grasses etc, where they can feast on unwanted insects. In the UK there’s a great organisation called Trees for Life. Their work is attracting a wonderful variety of wildlife, including birds, as native woodland is painstakingly reintroduced, in this case to the Caledonian forest in Scotland. There are some amazing people out there doing some amazing work……