A Manitoba beekeeper has received national recognition for his work advocating for and protecting pollinators.
Ian Steppler accepted the 2020 North America Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC) Farmer-Rancher Canada award for pollinator conservation during a virtual conference on October 20.
“I’m quite flattered and really happy to be able to accept this award,” said Steppler who had the plaque in hand and a Canadian flag draped in the background.
NAPPC is a conglomerate of academics, policy-makers and ag-industry members who work toward pollinator conservation in the U.S., Mexico and Canada.
Steppler runs a 1,500-hive honey operation and mixed grain and beef farm near Miami, Manitoba.
“It’s the interaction of these industries between each other which I think provides me with a very unique voice,” he said.
As well as speaking at conferences, Steppler hosts YouTube channel “A Canadian Beekeeper’s Blog,” which has over 50,000 subscribers. This has allowed him to connect with beekeepers around the world and share his philosophy, he said.
This philosophy focuses on the edges — the small bits of plant life and diversity — Steppler told the Co-operator.
Agronomic progress has allowed farmers to grow crops with fewer weeds. Increasing farm size has led producers to cut down trees and fill wetlands. This progress is good for farmers, but represents a loss of biodiversity and nutrition bees need, said Steppler. The bees can’t thrive on canola and sunflowers.
You can’t tell farmers to quit what they’re doing, said Steppler. Instead, you have to focus on doing what you can to preserve natural places and fragments of diversity across the land.
On his farm, this has included maintaining wild plants and flowers in the corners of fields, pastures and ditches. This has greatly benefited his bees, but he’s also seen an increase in wild pollinators, said Steppler.
“My hives are flourishing,” he said.
The award had a secondary benefit – putting Miami, Manitoba on the map.
“Yes, there is a Miami in Manitoba,” said Mary Robinson, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, as she presented the award.
“Miami, and we’re seeing snow on the ground today,” Steppler added.
Another Canadian, Shelly Candel, took home the 2020 NAPPC Pollinator Advocate (Canada) award. Candel founded Bee City Canada, an organization that recognizes communities and organizations that work toward pollinator conservation.