Pella — Walk-in coolers and pollinators may seem completely unrelated, but on a market farm selling fruits and vegetables, both are vital assets.
Jill Beebout and Sean Skeehan of Blue Gate Farm recently completed a 120-square-foot CoolBot walk-in cooler, which uses a modified air conditioner to keep vegetables fresh. They also raise honeybees in dozens of hives and actively manage their land for beneficial insects that are crucial for pollinating their crops.
"A diverse insect population is needed to pollinate the hundreds of varieties of fruits and vegetables we produce,” Sean says. “We have encouraged and planned habitat for beneficial insects and keep honeybees throughout the farm to maximize their pollination benefits."
Jill and Sean invite farmers and the public to learn about these two integral farm assets at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day they are hosting on Sunday, June 22, from 2-5:30 p.m., near Columbia. Blue Gate Farm is located at 749 Wyoming St., about 4 miles southwest of Columbia. The event – “CoolBots and Bees: Walk-In Coolers and Pollinators” – is free to attend and will include a potluck. Jill and Sean will provide a main dish, salad and beverages. Please bring a side dish or dessert to share. RSVPs are requested for the meal. Please reply to Lauren Zastrow at (515) 232-5661 or firstname.lastname@example.org by Thursday, June 19. The field day is sponsored by Certified Naturally Grown.
Attendees will learn about building a walking-in CoolBot cooler; preparing for market on a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm; on-farm pollinator research that Jill and Sean are doing through Practical Farmers’ on-farm research Cooperators’ Program; and prairie plants for pollinators. The day will also feature a farm tour, and participants will get to build their own solitary bee nest to take home. Additional speakers will include Joe Wheelock, an entomology graduate student at Iowa State University, and Thelma Heidel-Baker, a postdoctoral research associate and extension coordinator at ISU.