January 22, 2016 2:56 am

Okanagan farmer wants valley entirely organic to protect honey bees


KELOWNA, B.C. – An Okanagan man who tends to Canada’s largest organic vineyard says everyone can do more to help save the honey bee.

“The difference between a weed and a flower is judgement,” says Gabe Cipes, a certified permaculture designer, beekeeper and viticulturist at Summerhill Pyramid Winery.

Cipes says neighbourhoods need to return to a more natural state to help promote bee activity.

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“Feed them, grow flowers, grow perennial herbs and fruit trees and anything you can,” he says. “If you have a lawn, let it be a bee pasture. Let it grow.”

Cipes was sharing his love of ‘Beecology’ with a Kelowna audience at the downtown library Thursday night, part of the UBC Public Art Pollinator Pasture Project.

UBC Okanagan and Emily Carr University have teamed up for a three-year partnership with the City of Kelowna and the City of Richmond to create community and public art projects around bees.

“We need the whole valley organic,” adds Cipes.

“Every orchardist, every vineyard person, every backyard gardener, no more pesticides. And also, leave 10 per cent on all your land as wild space and forage. Let the wild mustards grow, let the dandelions grow, let it all happen. It’s worth it.”

Cipes says pristine lawns and the pesticides and herbicides needed to maintain them are killing nature.

“The chemical thing is destroying habitat, destroying ecology, destroying the micro-organisms,” he says.

“In order to save the bees and all ecology in general we have to shift our consciousness.”

Further talks are planned by UBC Okanagan, including one on February 18, featuring Kenna MacKenzie at the Pacific Agri-Research Centre in Summerland. MacKenzie will talk on “Pollinators and Farming in the Okanagan”. Admission is free but you’re encouraged to pre-register here.

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