There was a lot of buzz about ALUS on April 2, 2017, when ALUS Elgin held a bee-themed benefit at a boutique in southwestern Ontario. Taking quite literally the benefit event’s hashtag (#CheersToPollinators), a capacity crowd brandished many glasses of mead (a traditional honey-based wine) in support of their local ALUS program.
“We are donating 50% of the profits from our mead to ALUS Elgin, because we want to help their program expand and make even more habitat for native bees—they need our support!” said Stephen Hotchkiss, ALUS Elgin participant and co-owner of the New New Age, a beyond-organic herb farm, apiary and general store in Port Stanley.
The New New Age’s partners, the Last Castle Brewing Company, brewed up a special batch of mead using honey and herbs produced at the Hotchkiss farm, where ALUS is helping to enhance pollinator habitat. Stephen and Katie Hotchkiss have previously contributed jars of the New New Age’s honey to ALUS Canada’s national launch event at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, and donated a percentage of their limited edition “Flower Power” herbal tea to ALUS Elgin last fall.
“The Hotchkiss family has been strong advocates for our local ALUS program since they started as participants in 2016,” said Alyssa Cousineau, program coordinator for ALUS Elgin, who reports that the Hotchkiss farm has enrolled more than 40 acres in the ALUS program, including reforestation, tallgrass prairie and wetland projects.
“ALUS has been wonderful to work with, helping us every step of the way to plan and implement regenerative projects that have improved our farm and landscape in meaningful, long-lasting ways,” said Katie Hotchkiss. “Our ALUS projects have positively impacted not only us, but our entire watershed. We are delighted to give a little back to ALUS Elgin.”
As noted by the Chair of ALUS Elgin’s Partnership Advisory Committee (PAC), John Stewart, the ALUS Elgin program is a partnership between ALUS Canada and the Long Point Region Conservation Authority, one that also partners with other regional organizations to develop projects that are best suited to landowners’ needs in Elgin County.
ALUS Elgin’s current priorities include increasing pollinator habitats, controlling the invasive species Phragmites australis, and preventing the erosion of gullies and banks, which causes sedimentation and phosphorus-loading in rivers and lakes.
The CEO of ALUS Canada, Bryan Gilvesy, spoke enthusiastically about ALUS Elgin, one of 21 ALUS communities operating across the nation where farmers and ranchers are helping to produce cleaner water, cleaner air and more biodiversity, including pollinator habitat, for the benefit of everyone. Gilvesy also introduced the “New Acre Project,” an innovative way for Canadian corporations to support these acres on the ground through their corporate social responsibility funds.
In keeping with the bee theme, the event’s guest speakers included two pollinator experts from the University of Guelph. Both Dr. Nigel Raine (Rebanks Family Chair in Pollinator Conservation) and Dr. Andrew MacDougall (Associate Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology, and winner of the 2016 Weston Family Ecosystem Innovation Award) conduct scientific research on ALUS project sites. Dr. Raine presented insights on how to integrate pollinator habitat on a farm, as well as the benefits for native wildlife and to the farming operation, while Dr. MacDougall described his upcoming research work, involving beneficial insects and carbon sequestration on ALUS farms.
“This event exemplifies what ALUS is all about,” said Cousineau. “It’s wonderful to see the community coming together to support pollinators, and farmers, through the ALUS Elgin program.”
Click here for more on ALUS Elgin.
All photos courtesy DMP Photo Video.