Crescent Island Farm
Bees and Beer: GLSAs and Hedgerows on Crescent Island Farms
Crescent Island Farms in Ladner BC, has been in the Malenstyn family since 1961. Today the farm’s 25 acres grow hay, vegetables, and hops for Barnside Brewing Co., a farm-based brewery owned by Ken Malenstyn’s family, along with three other Delta farm families.
Over the years, the Malenstyn family has participated in both Grassland Set-Aside (GLSA) and Hedgerow Stewardship programs with Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust (DFWT). “My Dad was great at learning and adapting – early on, he recognized the value of the programs DFWT was offering,” explains Ken. “We had 16 acres in GLSAs for 4 years, and when we put them back into production there was a noticeable increase in soil fertility – even though BC was hit by the heat dome that summer. The first year we got two cuts of hay, and the revitalized soil has helped us to maintain our new market garden and hop yards using more regenerative methods, which makes our restaurant customers happy.”
“During the years the fields were set-asides you could see the wildlife move in,” he adds. “The number of birds went up, and the fields became hunting grounds for hawks and coyotes.”
The Malenstyns have been planting hedgerows with help from DFWT since the late 1980s. For Ken, the hedgerows are both an aesthetic and practical choice. “I like the look of hedgerows, and they provide habitat for beneficial insects that help to pollinate the market garden and prey on pests. We don’t use pesticides in our garden and predator insects like ladybugs, ground beetles and wasps help us keep things clean.”
The hedgerows on Crescent Island Farms are a mix of mature trees and low-growing bushes. They are working so well that Ken plans to plant a new hedgerow along the back of the market garden field this fall, and one along the front of the brewery.
Like his dad, Ken is a lifelong learner who continues to expand his sustainable farming practices. In the hop yards, he grows a cover crop of clover between the rows to fix nitrogen in the soil, keep weeds down, and reduce the dusty conditions that spider mites thrive in. A flock of sheep prune the base of the hop vines so that mildew can’t grow and spread in damp vegetation at the base. He is also planting more strips of clover along his field edges to support the thriving hives that sit in the hedgerows.
It can be a hard sell to get farmers to give up productive land to plant hedgerows or grass strips along the edges of fields. That’s why the cost-sharing programs offered by DFWT are so important to farmers like Ken. “Family farms can’t be expected to absorb the full cost of providing more pollinator habitat, or rest stops for migrating Snow Geese that can wipe out a pasture in two or three nights,” he explains. “DFWT programs take away the ‘us and them’ sentiment that sometimes exists between naturalists and farmers, and unite us over our shared love of the land.”