by Gilbert Uribe – Oregon Department of Agriculture
The Oregon Bee Project will be talking about bees and pesticide safety with the audience of Radio Movimiento (Movement Radio), a Spanish-language radio station based in Woodburn, Oregon in early November, 2017. Radio Movimiento is a community radio station operated by PCUN – Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noreste (Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United) which is Oregon’s Farmworker union. The worker union is also based in Woodburn and was founded in 1985 with the fundamental goal of aiding in the empowerment of farmworkers.
The objective of the meeting and conversation is to share the work of the Oregon Bee Project with the Spanish-speaking community in Oregon. Much of the conversation taking place will be in regard to bees, their diversity, and health status in our state. But central to bee health and pollinator protection is improving the broader understanding of pesticide safety and exposure risk mitigation by drawing on the parallels of bees and agricultural workers; both face an increased risk to pesticide exposure, have the potential to bring back residues to their homes, and make Oregon’s agriculture possible.
Understanding the interdependence of all involved in the agricultural production line makes it evident that one issue can’t be solved without at least addressing how it affects all the parts that interconnect. The high number of bee species estimated to be found in Oregon are supported by the diversity of landscapes and agricultural crops found within the state. The industry, in turn, depends on the labor provided by farmworkers which ultimately would not be possible without consumer demand. Thus, improving pesticide safety benefits bees, agricultural workers, and the consumers of agricultural products.
One of the goals of the Oregon Bee Project is to reach as many Oregonions as possible to raise awareness and provide accessible information about bees, their biology, and how to protect them. Just like English-speakers, the Spanish-speakers we encounter become fascinated when we explain that the estimated number of bee species in Oregon is over 500, that the majority of them live in small holes in the ground, and that many flourish in areas that many would not have previously suspected. The diversity in color, size, and tidbits exemplifying the diversity of behavior elicits fascination and wonder in a manner that highlights the innate affinity and curiosity that most humans share with the natural world and the living things that surround them.
This event will allow us to explore new ways in which we can continue to build a relationship with the agricultural worker communities in order to continue providing useful information in a manner that is most appropriate for them and that ultimately benefits all Oregonians.