New England Farmers Union held a Shop Talk on July 9 at Warm Colors Apiary in South Deerfield. Warm Colors is a beekeeping operation on 80 beautiful acres on the Mill River run by Dan and Bonita Conlon. While Dan has been keeping bees since his childhood, the two started keeping bees there as a full-time business in 2000, and since that time have built their operation to sell honey to retail grocery stores and food co-ops, colleges and universities, select restaurants, through a small shop on the farm, and online. They also breed and sell cold- and disease-resistant Russian queen bees, sell beekeeping equipment, teach beekeeping classes and hold workshops, work with local farmers to bring bees to fields (particularly squash) for pollination, and are involved in many agriculture and pollinator groups locally, state-wide, in the case of Farmers Union, regionally, and nationally. Dan and Bonita were one of the first members of New England Farmers Union when it started up in 2006.

Shop Talks are a way for farmer members to get their comments and concerns heard by Farmers Union, and for nonmembers to get to know what Farmers Union is all about. At the July 9 meeting, 10 attendees discussed many policy issues of concern, with an emphasis on the beekeeping industry, including:

  • Encouraging solar options for farms, nationally, and concern about Massachusetts reducing solar credits.
  • The need to update the pollinator section in New England Farmers Union policy book.
  • Suggestions for honeybee forage opportunities.
  • Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) clarification on exemptions, dates, planning.
  • Worries about FSMA record-keeping, government access to records, and subsequent enforcement and fines/information sharing among agencies.
  • Concern about a virus from bad potato seed infecting tomatoes, other crops.
  • Dams managed for utilities’ benefit, not for agriculture needs (suggestion that Irene mismanagement of dams led to decimation of farm fields).
  • Questions about regulations for farm workers versus processing workers.
  • Concerns about tax on cider.

New England Farmers Union thanks Warm Colors Apiary for hosting the event, and business members the Greenfield Farmers Cooperative Exchange, People’s Pint, and Hillside Pizza for donating a gift certificate, beer and food for the event. If you’d like to host a Shop Talk at your farm, please contact Kate Snyder.

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