I recently had the opportunity to tour several coffee fincas (farms) in Guatemala and I was very impressed that these farmers are passionate about creating habitat for birds and other wildlife on their farms. I’m also encouraged that these farmers are pursuing certification for their fincas as wildlife preserves.
In order for a finca to be certified as a wildlife preserve, each farmer must set aside a certain percentage of their land to maintain in primary forest. Coffee and other crops must be grown organically with no chemical fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides. And the farmers must manage their land in ways that creates welcoming habitat for birds and other wildlife.
Can you just imagine if farming were done this way in the US?
Instead of acre after acre of monoculture, pesticide drenched, GMO corn, we would have healthy working ecosystems that contributed to wildlife habitats and did no harm to surrounding waterways and local natural areas, but instead were part of a solution working toward protecting the environment.
I’m pretty sure that if this model is working in Guatemala, it can certainly work here in the US as well!
Sure, it requires some creative thinking. Sure it would mean that factory farms are no longer poisoning our food and polluting the environment. And yes this new paradigm may initially cost some money.
But just imagine a farm that didn’t have to worry about colony collapse disorder among honey bees because they had created welcoming habitat for the many different species of native bees.
Imagine a farm which supported grassland birds whose numbers are in steep decline!
Imagine a farm whose Roundup Ready GMO corn wasn’t killing off huge numbers of Monarch butterflies!
I know many small farmers here in the US who are passionate about growing food in a way that does no harm to the environment. They welcome birds and butterflies, and especially native bees to the ecosystem of their farm, and have become stewards of their land.
But they are competing with the giant agribusiness factory farms who think nothing of spraying poisonous chemicals all over the food that you will eat. The farms that have nothing but GMO monoculture crops drenched in pesticides. The farms who place corporate profits above our very health.
We have a choice when we purchase our groceries. We can support the small local farms who are doing the right thing and growing healthy food. We can shop at local farmers markets and join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in our area.
I’ve been teaching homeowners for years how to create Ecosystem Gardens–sustainable gardens that conserve natural resources and create welcoming habitats for wildlife so that you will attract more birds, butterflies, native bees, frogs and toads, and other wildlife.
And now it’s time to work on Ecosystem Farming!
Fortunately, some farmers are already doing this important work:
- Farming For Bees, Xerces Society
- Restoring Ecological Health to Your Land, Steven Apfelbaum
- What Makes a Good Farm for Wildlife? David B Lindenmayer
- BeeGAP–teaching gardeners to attract native bees for local farmers
Remember, you Ecosystem Garden extends outward from your garden. When you choose to support local farmers who work to protect the environment and create welcoming habitat for wildlife, you are helping to change the farming paradigm that is doing so much harm to our environment–and our own health.
Follow all of my birding adventures in Guatemala:
- The View From Temple #4
- Extreme Birding: The Quest to See the Horned Guan in Guatemala
- Birding Tikal
- Farmers Saving Bird Habitat
- Turning Farms into Wildlife Habitat
- Attracting Birds and Birders
Carole Sevilla Brown lives in Philadelphia, PA, and she travels the country speaking about Ecosystem Gardening for Wildlife. Check out her new free online course Ecosystem Gardening Essentials, 15 free lessons delivered to your inbox every week.
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