It’s World Environment Day, the day each year that the UN has held in celebration, conversation, and action for our shared home since 1974. Today, around the world, we reflect on our environmental impact and work on projects to protect our planet from pollution, climate change, poaching, and the many other crises that face our planet. In the spirit of the day, we want to talk with you about some of the environmental conservation work we are doing on our farm and why it matters for our herbs, our products, and you.
So what exactly is environmental conservation? Put simply, conservation combines the effort to preserve and protect the earth and its resources with the need for sustainable human use. Environmental conservation includes protecting and maintaining native biodiversity, crucial ecosystem functions, and the health of the soil, water, and air.
Private Lands Conservation is an essential and mutually beneficial component of conservation.
Private land accounts for about 70% of land in the lower-48 states, making it an obviously important type of land. Two-thirds of endangered species are supported by private land. However, only 3% of protected areas are found on private lands, making it essential for farms to take action to support conservation.
While a monoculture farm provides habitat, it generally supports far fewer species. Often, it will only support a limited number of insect species that typically lack sufficient natural predators, leading to their overpopulation. This can have detrimental effects on both crop production (or increase pesticide use) and on the local ecosystem by reducing the habitat available to most species. A variety of plants, especially in a variety of forms (i.e. grasses, flowering plants, shrubs, nitrogen fixers, and trees) can support far more diverse ecosystems.
Many people think that farms supporting conservation must damage their bottom line. However, many conservation efforts are long-term investments in the local community. Costs can be reduced over the long-term through effects such as: reducing plant replacement, reducing water and fertilizer use, and reducing soil erosion. A recent study by CSU found that each dollar put into conservation generates $4-$12 in ecosystem services i.e. flood control, water purification, air quality, pollination, and wildfire reduction.
Colorado Aromatics is growing with nature, not against it.
Conservation is an important part of our work, not only because it makes our products safer and healthier for those that use them, but also because the way that we grow our ingredients has a local and global impact.
Our farm is Certified Naturally Grown (CNG), which means we never use toxic pesticides or herbicides on our property. Instead, we use manual labor, companion planting, biocontrols, and other natural methods for dealing with weeds and harmful critters. Farms, like ours, are part of the environment around them. Farmers that use growing practices that foster this connection can benefit the economy, human health, and the health of our planet.
Growing CNG herbs allows us to create better, safer products and is important to our product sustainability goals and to our product safety goals. This also allows us to support biodiversity. The conservation measures we have implemented on the farm have helped us to provide habitat and resources to native wildlife.
Some of the ways we’ve integrated conservation into the work we do on our farm include:
- Planting a native species garden.
- Using companion planting techniques like incorporating flowers into our crop rows for pollinators. Even our crops serve ecological functions. For example, our calendula attracts beneficial insects as well as the pests who would otherwise be munching through the rest of our plants. Calendula is hardy enough to handle these oncoming insects, plus, there are often beneficial (but harmless to us) spiders like the banded garden spider lurking in the leaves waiting for someone to eat.
- Planting a windbreak. We’ve added a row of native conifers and a row of deciduous shrubs to our farm that will help protect our crops from wind and protect our soil from erosion. They will also provide important habitat and resources for wildlife.
- We have bee boxes on the farm for honeybees. While not native, they are great pollinators that love our herbs, especially the lavender.
- We are also breeding monarch butterflies, one of the many butterfly species on the farm. Breeding this threatened species of butterfly is important not only for the pollination that happens on our farm but also for the ecosystem services they provide across the US.
Our farm supports over 87 species of wildlife, most of which are native to Colorado.
In the last year, we’ve recorded over 87 species of wildlife on the farm, most of which are native to Colorado. We’ve even been fortunate enough to see eggs and chicks from some bird species like robins, killdeer, and grackles.
Our farm is also home to many species of pollinators. There are monarchs and honeybees, as mentioned above, and other butterflies like red admirals, painted ladies, 3 species of swallowtail, sulfurs, and cabbage whites. Wasps and native bees are also important pollinators. We love seeing the fuzzy Hunt’s Bumblebee buzzing around our comfrey.
The pollinators that our farm helps support also visit nearby farms, helping their crops. Growing in a way that protects and supports pollinators is important not only for our own farm but also for our local community and the global food supply. ¾ of flowering plants rely on pollinators, and ⅓ of food crops!
Wildlife is also important for natural pest control. There are plenty of jumping spiders, wolf spiders, and crab spiders protecting our plants from unwanted pests. We also have bats who come out to feed on mosquitoes and other biting insects each night. Birds are also excellent at controlling pests. We’ve counted about 40 bird species so far including 4 species of swallow, killdeer, several species of warblers, and kingbirds.
Farming naturally has a lasting impact on the biodiversity we see on our farm and the biodiversity that is all around us. How we farm is part of what makes our company unique within the skincare industry. We have a responsibility to care for the land we use. We also have a responsibility to create safe, sustainable products for our customers. We’re on a mission to make sure we’re doing the best we can in both of those areas and we’re so excited to get to share how we’re doing that with you.
On this World Environment Day, take the opportunity to reflect on the products you buy and the actions you take each day that impacts the environment. Do you know how the things you buy help or harm the planet? What is one “green resolution” you could make for the rest of the year to make your own life a little greener?
Then, go play outside!
– Leo + Fern
Leo and Fern are our resident Conservation Biologists who work on our farm and at our production facility. They run the nature-centered Instagram account @thiswildwonderland and the associated blog. Say hello to them at the Boulder and City Park farmers markets or leave a comment with any conservation or ecology-related questions you have.