72 Garth Mulkey – Specialty seeds and bees


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This episode explores the fascinating relationship between bees and specialty seed crops. Oregon vegetable and flower seed industries are deeply invested in the health of pollinators. Moreover, the great conditions for growing seeds in the state has led to a proliferation in the variety of different flowering crops grown in Oregon. An estimated 14,000+ acres are planted to vegetable seed production statewide, for a farm gate value of $27 million in 2012. This is good news for bees. We caught up with Garth Mulkey to learn more.

Garth operates a farm in Monmouth Oregon and a seed business (GS3 Quality Seeds Inc). This summer we walked through one of his sunflower fields with his beekeeper Tim Wydronek, OSU’s Vegetable and Specialty Seed Crop Specialist Dr. Kristine Buckland and Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Sarah Kincaid. Garth is also one of the early adopters of the Oregon Bee Project’s Flagship Farm Program.

Listen in to learn how Garth helped develop the bee protection protocol for specialty seed growers, and why specialty seed growers need bees.

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“[The bees] are even more critical in our hybrid productions, because the females in this production do not produce their own pollen, so if we don’t have bees, we don’t harvest seed.” – Garth Mulkey

Show Notes:

  • What makes Oregon such an ideal place to grow specialty seeds
  • Why the bees are so necessary in Garth’s hybrid productions
  • How to best prepare bees for pollination
  • What Tim Wydronek is looking for from the growers before pollination begins
  • Why Garth’s group came up with a bee protection protocol
  • What no-till farming is and why it is used with specialty seed growers
  • How and where Garth’s specialty seeds are used around the world
  • The process of generating a protocol to protect pollinators in such a large group of growers

“As a group who specializes in hybrid production, we realize the importance of having pollinators, and lots of them. So as a group, we decided we needed to be at the forefront of educating the public and the legislators on what our needs are and what we’re doing.” – Garth Mulkey

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