Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Pollinator Packs…Doing Our Part

By Farmers Richard & Andrea

This week is our first of two deliveries for our Pollinator Packs.   These are a garden pack of nine different native plants including grasses and flowers that have been carefully selected by Richard.  These plants are beneficial for our environment for many reasons including providing habitat and food sources for a variety of species that provide pollination services, help control pests, and contribute to keeping our ecosystem healthy and in good balance.  The idea for these Pollinator Packs came about back in 2015.  In May 2015 the White House released the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.  Many individuals felt this was a groundbreaking step towards acknowledging and mobilizing action around rapidly declining pollinator populations within North America.  The importance of setting a national strategy to guide the protection, restoration, and enhancement of pollinator habitats is largely undisputed among scientists and others operating within conservation circles.  However, this national plan failed to address a selection of key considerations that appeared to have been left out of the national plan.  Primarily, questions surrounding pesticide use—including that of glyphosate and systemic insecticides like neonicotinoids, which have been directly linked to the decline of bee and other wildlife populations. 

As organic farmers, we do not use these agrochemicals, but felt it was important that we fully understand the impact these chemicals are having on our pollinating creatures as well as our environment and human health.  So, we launched a series of newsletters that we called “The Silent Spring Series.”  Over the course of six articles, we sifted through a variety of resources, journal articles, etc in an effort to educate ourselves about some of these agrochemicals and the direct impact their use is having on the people, creatures and environments where they are being used.  Sarah Janes Ugoretz authored these articles and fearlessly attacked these difficult topics.  She reviewed the research and eloquently presented her findings in a way that we were all able to understand.  We encourage you to take a moment to go back and read this series of articles as the information contained in them is very important to understand for our own health as well as the health of our environment, etc.  Links to each of these articles are as follows: 

About half way through this series, the content was feeling pretty heavy and a bit depressing.  We started asking ourselves, “What can we do?”  Sometimes these problems seem so grand and out of our control that it’s hard to know where to start, but we know that even small, individual efforts can collectively create great change and can make an impact.  So the final article in our series focused on the future.  Our goal with these articles was to leave our members with a sense of empowerment and some motivation.  Empowerment in the sense that, if we’ve done our jobs well, our members would walk away with a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding the use of agrochemicals and the depth of their impact.  As a result of being better informed, our hope is that our members would then be motivated to look at ways they could bring about positive changes within their own circles. 

We have extensive plantings of native grasses and flowers on our farm that we’ve established because we want to provide habitat and a food source that will attract and support a wide variety of beneficial creatures including bees, wasps, birds, butterflies, etc.  These creatures help to support a healthy, balanced ecosystem on our farm, they aid our efforts in controlling pests in our vegetable crops, assist with pollinating our flowering crops such as squash, melons, cucumbers, etc and they are a joy to watch and observe.  We know how to grow plants, so we thought perhaps we could grow these Pollinator Packs to share with our members.  In this way we are able to expand the benefit these plants can offer beyond our own valley and into the neighborhoods where our members live, work and play. 

So that is how Pollinator Packs came to be!  We didn’t plant them last year and we had quite a few members asking for them, so we decided to do them again this year.  We’re offering these, free of charge, to our CSA members and encourage each of you to consider where you might be able to plant these in your community.  Some members have larger garden areas and are able to plant several packs while others are more limited in their space and do something as simple as plant them in pots on their balcony or patio.  Every little bit helps and we guarantee you’ll enjoy watching these plants become established, grow and come back year after year.  Of note, all of the plants in the pack are perennials.

This year the contents of the packs are different from two years ago and will be a good complement to the previous selections.  Some of the flowers may not bloom until next season, so don't get discouraged if you don't see flowers this year.  We purchased all of the seed from Prairie Moon Nursery, so if you’d like more information about any of these plants or others you can visit their website.  They have a lot of interesting and valuable information to share.   

If you did not request a Pollinator Pack(s) for this week’s deliveries, it’s not too late.  We still have plenty of packs available and will be delivering them again next week.  If you’d like to join in on the fun, please email Kelly at and let her know how many packs you’d like us to send with next week’s deliveries. 

Here’s a little more information about the plants in this year’s pack as well as a diagram and pictures to help you identify each one:  

Diagram of plants in your pack

Side Oats Grama

Side Oats Grama:  This is an interesting grass that produces tiny flowers during its summer bloom time in August and September.  When the seed heads dry, they have an oat-like appearance.  It is a food source or larval host for at least five types of skipper moths.  It grows to about 2 feet high. 

Great Coneflower

Great Coneflower:  This is a large plant that can grow up to 6 feet tall and produces yellow flowers in June & July.  It does best in full to partial sun.

Smooth Blue Aster

Smooth Blue Aster:  This plant has smooth leaves with a tough stem that sometimes has a shady blue appearance.  It stands 4 feet tall and produces beautiful blue flowers over a long time from August through October.  It does best in full to partial sun.

Purple Coneflower

Purple Coneflower:  This plant is also known as Echinacea purpurea and has a wide range of medicinal uses. It grows to a height of 4 feet and produces purple flowers from July-September.  This plant is very attractive to bees, so get ready to see some action!  It does best in full to partial sun.

Silky Wild Rye

Silky Wild Rye:  This is a common woodland grass.  It is a thicker grass than the others in our pack and actively grows during spring and fall when soil temperatures are cool.  It grows to a height of 3 feet and does best in partial sun to shady areas.

Blue Sage

Blue Sage:  This is an easy, beautiful plant to grow in areas that are a bit more dry.  It grows to a height of 5 feet and produces blue flowers in August and September that are very attractive to butterflies and bees.  Because of its height, it has a tendency to flop over, so it benefits from being in close proximity to other plants that can provide some support or you may want to tie it to a stake to keep it upright.  If you brush up against the leaves, you’ll pick up the typical scent of sage. 

Blue-Ridge Buckbean

Blue-Ridge Buckbean:  This is a legume also sometimes referred to as Carolina Lupine.  This plant blooms early in the season in May and June when it produces bright yellow flowers.  It grows to a height of 4 feet, does well in full to partial sun and can thrive in drier soil.

Purple Prairie Clover

Purple Prairie Clover:  This flowering plant has a shorter stature growing to just 2 feet tall.  It produces purple flowers in July, August and September.  It does well in full to partial sun and drier soil.

Blue Grama Grass

Blue Grama Grass:  This is a drought-tolerant grass that will form a larger clump.  It actively grows during the summer when the soil is warm and only grows to a height of 12 inches.  It forms attractive blue seed heads in late summer to early fall.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

This is a great page! Thank you for doing your part and help us to do ours.