HARWICH — There will be a new flower garden at the entrance to the Harwich Food Forest Walking Commons at the Bay Road power lines in East Harwich, serving primarily as a pollinator habitat in the public gardens.
The Food Forest Initiative of Cape Cod – working with the Harwich Water Department, which owns the land, and Eversource, the utility company that holds the power line easement – established a perennial agriculture plot along the corridor last spring. Eversource made contributions toward the purchase of native edible plantings that area available for public harvest.
Keep Massachusetts Beautiful is now stepping up with a $500 Plant Something Beautiful grant to pay for a pollinator garden. The organization promotes volunteers to reduce litter, promote waste reduction and recycling; its mission is to take action to make communities a cleaner and greener place to live, work and play.
“Our Plant Something Bee-eautiful program is all about beautifying public spaces while also restoring natural habitats for pollinators,” said Neil Rhein, founder and executive director of Keep Massachusetts Beautiful. “Bees and other pollinators are an essential link in our food chain and this program provides funding toward a solution. We are pleased to support Food Forest Initiative of Cape Cod in this effort.”
The funds will be used next spring to diversify the commons garden with native flowers that support pollinators, said Rand Burkert, secretary for The Food Forest Initiative of Cape Cod.
Bees and other pollinators are in serious decline around the world. According to the Pollinator Partnership, the monarch butterfly population has declined by 90 percent over the past 20 years. Pollinators, including 20,000 species of wild bees, contribute to the growth of fruit, vegetables and flowering plants. Plants that depend on pollination make up 35 percent of the global crop production volume, Burkert said.
The decline of pollinators is caused by habitat destruction, the overuse of pesticides, farming practices that eliminate patches of wildflowers and cover crops, parasites and pathogens, as well as climate change, he said.
The Food Forest Initiative will determine which plants will grow best within the garden area at the commons entrance. In addition to creating a pollinator garden, the group will develop a customized pollinator seed mix that can be used in pollinator restoration projects across Cape Cod, Burkert said.
“We make gardens in public spaces that can be used for hands-on learning,” he said. “In Harwich, we have given seminars at Lighthouse Charter School and are always seeking schools interested in partnering with us to use these gardens for learning in ecology and sustainability. This grant will enable us to extend use of the space to do deeper research into pollinators with youth.” A “beecology” smartphone app, developed by Professor Robert Gegear at UMass Dartmouth, will be used to study pollinator behavior.
Food Forest Initiative of Cape Cod is a volunteer group inspired by permaculture and restoration agriculture principles. The initiative creates school gardens and other public plantings that address food security and food justice, biodiversity, carbon sequestration, and the need for experiences that strengthen the connections with nature, through shared work on the land, Burkert said.