Join us for Parade of Prairies, a bus tour showcasing local landowner’s native landscapes. We’ll see high quality native prairie plantings in various stages of restoration and learn about the variety of native prairie plants, as well as what can be done in residential neighborhoods and larger acreages alike.
Parade of Prairies makes prairie plantings accessible to all.
Education will focus on how to start on any scale, available local resources and problem solving. Meet property owners and land managers to discuss their choices and results.
2019 Theme: “Creating Habitat in the Country”
Darrel and Middie Morf started planting prairie on their rural Mount Vernon land in 1998, when they took 14 acres of highly-erodable ground on a Paha West of Mount Vernon out of cultivation and planted it to diverse tall-grass prairie. They seeded this area with a forb-rich custom seed mix (one of the first 50:50 forbs/grass prairies planted in Iowa), and it has thrived. It is alive with over 50 kinds of wildflowers of different varieties and colors from May through September. More recently, they acquired some adjoining land and planted another 32 acres on the same paha with a pollinator CRP mix, enhanced with a number of additional forbs to increase biodiversity. Most recently, they planted 18 acres of sandy low ground between the railroad tracks and the creek with a wildlife habitat CRP prairie seed mix. They receive CRP payments with respect to all 64 acres of these prairies, and also received cost-share toward the purchase of their seeds. What started out as a practical decision for poor farmland has become a source of joy and contentment for the owners who walk their trails regularly and enjoy sharing this beautiful place with others. Our tour will be concentrated on the original 14-acre paha priarie which has views in all directions and is now protected by a conservation easement held by the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.
Steve and Kathy Epley converted 25 acres of crop land to Pheasants Forever habitat seven years ago. The area is comprised of native prairiegrasses including switchgrass and bluestem and a food plot of corn and grain sorghum that provides cover and food for wildlife. The area adjoins a brushy fence row, plots of alfalfa, a farm pond, and Abbey Creek. Three years ago the Epleys added five acres of native flowers to the area, which have provided a colorful addition to the landscape surrounding their home. The area that was once cropland has become a haven for pheasants, deer, quail, small game, and a wide variety of songbirds.
Les and Katrina Garner purchased their property in 2002. Constructing two ponds in eroded ravines created wildlife habitat and slowed down water erosion, benefitting their downstream neighbors. Dr. Paul Christiansen, a friend from the Garners’ Cornell days and co-author of An Illustrated Guide to Iowa Prairie Plants, was a valuable resource. His generosity included hand-broadcasting big bluestem, rudbeckia, purple coneflower, prairie coneflower, and other prairie plant seeds over the land. David Novak of Prairie Oak Restoration, LLC has continued that legacy, resulting in seven subsequent plantings to sequester carbon and water, build soil, and restore native beauty. All planted areas and crop fields have been burned at least once in the last eight years.
Paul and Jennifer Morf bought a derelict farm on Ivanhoe Road in 2000. The circa-1890 house didn’t have plumbing. The barns were full of loose hay, which was heavy with water due to the damaged roofs. The 85 acres surrounding the building site was degraded pasture on steep slopes. It included exciting features such as multiple open private landfills, dozens of dilapidated interior livestock fences and badly-eroded waterways. The dominant species that greeted them were ragweed, multifloral rose, boxelder, gray dogwood and brome grass. Where others saw problems, Paul and Jennifer saw opportunities and a challenge. Paul says they are 19 years into a 50-year restoration project. Today, the house has plumbing and the barns are stable. You will still find multifloral rose and brome grass in many places, but you will also find large swaths of reconstructed prairies; patches of old timber that have been improved with the aid of a timber management plan and protected by a conservation easement; over 6,000 new trees; and new ecosystems including a wooded ephemeral wetland and a large pond. Paul and Jennifer continue to fight invasive non-native species, but native plants are expanding their footprint as well, and a wide range of wildlife is choosing to make its home across the property. After walking trails through the reconstructed prairie, lunch will be served in a large open-sided tent with views across the property. During lunch, the owners will share some of the challenges and successes of the first 18 years of this project to convert degraded pasture and woods into diverse and healthy ecosystems. They will also provide information on the amphibians, mammals, and roughly 170 species of birds who have been observed utilizing the various reconstructed and restored ecosystems during the last 5 years.