Hillfarm featured in Friends of the Earth’s Bee-Friendly Shopper’s Guide to Rapeseed Oil

by , November 23, 2016

Did you know a third of all food we eat is pollinated by bees? And how about the fact that bees contribute £651 million to the UK economy every year?

photo-1417689842201-866e0d91e736_cropFrom fruit and vegetables to oil crops and nuts, bees are vital to our ecosystem, but sadly bee populations are in decline across the world. Here at Hillfarm we take our commitment to saving the bees very seriously, which is why we’re over the moon to be recognised by Friends of the Earth.

81% of people in Britain say they want to see bees protected from harmful pesticides, including the harmful, controversial neonicotinoids.

So, to help consumers choose food products with confidence, Friends of the Earth have put together an excellent Bee-Friendly Shopper’s Guide to Rapeseed Oil. You can find out more about this pioneering project, including why Hillfarm recognised by Friends of the Earth for our rapeseed oil production, by watching this short, informative video>

So what do we do to help bees on the farm?

Two years ago, we decided to ban the use of the three potentially harmful neonicotinoid chemicals in our seed treatments at Hillfarm. Neonicotinoids, or neonics as they’re more commonly known, are a type of pesticide that helps farmers to grow healthy crops. But after countless studies and research, scientists can’t agree if neonics are harming bees. For us the uncertainty simply isn’t worth the risk.

Bee Hives at Hill Farm Suffolk

In the spring of 2016, we decided to take our commitment one step further by launching our Hillfarm Bee Hives. We’ve now got 130 beehives on-site, 10 belonging to Hillfarm and the rest to a local beekeeper, resulting in huge benefits for the farm, our crops, and most importantly the bees.

Not only do our hives help to increase bee numbers, but they also further our commitment to sustainable farming practices. By keeping bees, we’re using native insects for their primary purpose – to help pollinate our crops – which is proven to produce a healthier, higher quality plant. The bees also naturally control populations of insects that would otherwise harm our crops, acting as a natural pesticide.Borage flower

To help our resident bees, we also grow borage crops. Most flowers only produce nectar just once per day so the poor bee has to work so much harder to collect it, but the bright blue borage flowers recharge with nectar every 15 minutes, and provide a great food source for the honeybees once the oilseed rape has stopped flowering.

Hillfarm & Friends of the Earth


When Friends of the Earth heard about our commitment to stop using neonics in our seed treatments, they decided to pay Hillfarm a visit to find out more. Their trip to the farm this spring coincided with our beehives arriving, so they saw first-hand how we’re creating a bee-friendly environment on-site.Sam Fairs talking to Friends of the Earth about the bees

Friends of the Earth were also keen to learn how we were controlling insect pests in our crops without using such chemicals, and to share this information with other farmers. We’re always keen to share our knowledge, so we passed on our top tips including:

  1. Sowing your seeds earlier, so plants can establish quickly and are less vulnerable to pests
  2. Preparing the soil with a fine seedbed, avoiding large clods of earth for pests to hide under

So what’s next?

At Hillfarm, we know we need bees and other beneficial insects to pollinate our crops. They perform a very important function at the start of the human food chain, and we believe it’s our job to protect them in this vital task. Going forward, we’ll continue to be enthusiastic supporters of the Friends of the Earth’s ‘The Bee Cause’ campaign. We believe in talking the talk and walking the walk, which is why we’re taking every step we can to help our local bee populations, now and into the future.

You can find out more about The Bee Cause campaign on the Friends of the Earth website.


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