Seeds for Bees grower Blake Davis and Billy Synk talk about the multiple benefits of cover crop planting in the California almond orchard Blake manages.
Photo courtesy of Scott Hathaway.
Where did you grow up? When did you first start working in agriculture?
I grew up in Visalia. My first job after college was in the construction industry. When I was 25, I realized I wanted to work outside instead and transferred to ag.
Where did you go to school? What other credentials do you have?
I went to the College of the Sequoias. I also have my PCA and QAL license.
What was your work experience before your position at Pacific Gold Agriculture?
I was a PCA for Helena Chemical.
What do you grow?
Almonds, Pecans, and Walnuts.
How many acres you currently manage?
Pacific Gold manages over 3,500 acres. I oversee 700 acres in the Sacramento Valley. I also assist with management decisions on the remainder of our land in
Why did you start planting Seeds for Bees cover crops?
The long-term sustainability of our land and business. Maintaining healthy
bee populations and soil quality is our goal and cover cropping helps us achieve that.
What other things have you done for bees?
We planted 3,600 feet of pollinator-friendly hedgerows with plans to install
more hedgerows adjacent to other blocks. We also have a company-wide policy of only spraying at night. This is necessary for honey bee safety.
What does your beekeeper think of your efforts?
He is excited about the changes to our orchard. Because of the diverse forage our orchards provide he can bring his bees in earlier in winter before almond bloom. He also says the hives that are stronger when they leave.
What are the soil benefits that you have seen?
Our soils are heavy and can become compacted. Cover cropping with the PAm Mustard Mix has helped the water infiltrate by breaking up the soil and adding organic matter.
Are there some challenges related to cover crop in almond orchards?
How did you overcome those?
The transition has presented any significant challenges. I was initially worried about too much dead plant matter on the orchard floor come harvest, but it did not hinder us down as we anticipated.
What are the biggest issues almond growers face today?
Water and bee health. If we don’t have water to grow trees, and bees to set nuts our industry will suffer.
How do you prevent frost damage with an orchard that has cover crops?
We use thermometers and soil water sensors. If temperatures drop, we will mow down whatever vegetation is growing. Most years frost isn’t an issue.
What is your favorite way to eat almonds?
Right off the tree.
Are your children old enough to help out?
I wish! My kids do enjoy going into the orchard and seeing the different stages of growth throughout the season. They also like to watch the equipment being used during harvest.
What do you like to do when you are not working?
When I’m not working or thinking about working, I enjoy spending time with my family and being outdoors.
What tool could you not live without?
My pickup truck….one tool I wouldn’t mind losing is my cell phone. (laughter)
A big thank you goes out to Blake Davis for spending some of his Friday evening with me. And, be sure to check out the new Seeds for Bees video featuring testimonials from Blake and beekeepers who provide pollination services for almond growers.
Want to help shape who you hear from next? Send me your suggestions and ideas at Billy@ProjectApism.org or 614-330-6932. Stay tuned for more interviews in upcoming posts!
Director of Pollination Programs