When I first moved to Guelph a couple of years ago, I got involved with an organization called Appleseed Collective. In the heat of apple season, we went all over the Guelph area to harvest apples, with the objective of using those apples to help provide food to those in need.
But, we couldn’t have done it without the generosity of Rob and Jane Stark, and their willingness to let not just Appleseed Collective, but also a host of other community organizations, come in and pick to their heart’s content to support community organizations.
The Stark orchard is not a commercial orchard at all. It is a labour of love. The orchard had originally been planted as a pick-your-own commercial orchard. However, when the Starks purchased the property fourteen years ago, it was in terrible condition.Much of the back area was inaccessible. The orchard had not been pruned for probably 5 or 6 years and the rows between the trees hadn’t been trimmed for a long time. Though they’d been told that there might be a marshy area on the property, they weren’t able to find it for some time. .
Over the first five years or so, Rob and Jane gradually brushed out the rows and pruned what trees they could save. The dwarf fruit trees were badly overgrown and some reached 30 feet tall !! Thousands of hours of work later, they have a fairly workable orchard which usually produces a great deal of fruit.
For the past ten years, Rob and Jane have been allowing people to come out and pick apples and pears. Groups such as the Appleseed Collective, Waldorf School classes, Church and Seniors groups, local Scouting programs and many more.
Last year, the Stark orchard experienced something they had never experienced before. A year without fruit. Not one apple or pear. Was it due to the harsh winter of 2013/2014? Did it harm the wild pollinators that they had always had before?
In answer to their interest in learning more about he could manage mason bees to improve his pollination on his property, I met with Rob Stark a few weeks ago. After describing what it would take to get even a fraction of what he would need for adequate pollination to occur on his property, Rob was excited… but then came back and said the words that many orchards say when faced with an expensive initial outlay “I can’t do that right now. I just don’t have the financial resources.”
Now, I’m not the kind of person to just leave things alone like this. Not when I know the property, the owners, and that the space would be PERFECT for mason bees. So I’m turning to the community of bee lovers and wild pollination lovers (as well as all the organizations that have benefited from coming out to this property) to help out. I’ve created a fundraiser on GoFundMe to benefit the Stark Orchard – to help them get the homes AND the bees they need to get started… and if we reach our goal early enough, we’ll even have a bee release party on May 9th (and if you donate to that level, you’ll be invited).
So please donate to the Stark Family Orchard’s mason bee and bee house fund!