In an unlikely paradox, our neighbor hayed our field during national pollinator week. I don’t know if I was the only one conflicted or not, but I totally was. Our fields are full of clover, wildflowers, and healthy grasses, so it’s no surprise that every year he comes to hay. We get a good chunk of money from him, which is great, but this year I seriously considered asking him not to hay because all the clover, wildflowers, and milkweed provide a pathway for pollinators…and then I felt like that was a crazy thing to ask, so I didn’t…and I’m still conflicted about it.
A bit about ecosystems and farming
We have 40 acres of land and people often ask if we are going to run cattle on it. And while I maybe want a cow or two eventually, that’s not my primary goal. What I really want is to create a conservation-type area for pollinators, wildlife, and like, human life. Because we can’t live without the benefits these ecosystems provide, yet we’re sitting by while they’re destroyed. Not to be dramatic or anything, but if our ecosystems die, we die. Disclaimer: I don’t know a lot about earth science, I’m not zero-waste, and I don’t even recycle. I obviously have tons of room for improvement but wanted to share what I’ve been learning.
Fun fact: More than 95% of all tallgrass prairies have been eliminated because we’ve turned the prairies into farmland (source) Thankfully, 40% of the shortgrass prairies remain, but that’s only because the land is too dry for non-irrigated farming. Just FYI, our lawns are not enough to support oxygen for humans…or wildlife. And while I believe the farming industry started with good intentions, it’s just a mess now, but that’s a totally different series of posts.
Everyone is freaking out about the rainforest (and they should be), but we’ve been completely silent on the damage commercial farming has caused the ecosystems in our backyards…like you guys, 95% OF OUR PRAIRIES ARE GONE.
Only .1% of the prairies in Iowa exist and here in Missouri, only .5% of the native prairie exists. Though there are 17 million acres of technical “grassland”, native grasses have been pushed out and are nearly extinct because the prairies were seeded with grass beneficial to feeding cattle. Oh, and we grow a lot of corn.
If we don’t have prairies then we don’t have as many pollinators. This is my artsy interpretation of it–basically, without them we’d be dead…or less alive. Because ” a world without pollinators is a world without plants” (source)
8 Ways to Save the Pollinators (and in the process help our ecosystems)
Here are a few ways we can all start to help the pollinators:
- Plant native plants and wildflowers. I love using American Meadows for all of my wildflower seed (not affiliated, just love them). Check out their page here to find native wildflowers for your area. Make sure there is something in bloom each season (spring, summer, fall). Oh, and the seeds at American Meadows are GMO-free and neonicotinoid-free. Speaking of neonicotinoids:
- Check your plants for neonicotinoids before you buy them. Neonicotinoids are an insecticide that has been bred into your plants and flowers. A lot of plants at big box stores will have plants that say they are “protected” by neonicotinoids. The neonicotinoids essentially “protect” (please read as INFECT) the entire plant, including the pollen and nectar. They are considered “less hazardous” to humans and other small mammals, but as an insecticide, it will kill your pollinators. Don’t buy them.
- Make a bee house for non-honeybees: because guess what? Honeybees aren’t the only bees that pollinate things. So if you don’t want to keep bees? Guess what? Just make a bee house!
- Don’t use pesticides. Just stop. And before you come at me with ‘you can’t grow good food without pesticides’, let’s just all sit for a moment and think about how the h* people used to farm before pesticides.
- Use heirloom seeds when planting your garden. Don’t plant GMO seeds. Baker Creek is a great place to get heirloom seeds and they have an amazing assortment.
- Plant host plants for butterflies. You can check out a list of host plants here. But also, plant a lot of milkweed for the monarchs, plus, all the butterflies love them.
- Support local farmers and growers because chances are, they aren’t using millions of acres of former prairie to farm corn, cattle, and soy. Instead, they are likely farming sustainably in a way that helps the earth and our pollinators.
- Plant a wildlife garden in place of a yard. I mean, you can still have a yard, maybe, depending on the size of your lot. But sod requires more water than native/perennial/drought tolerant plants, nor does it provide the pollinators with food or shelter. Plant native shurbs for nesting birds. More info here.
What are some other ways to save the pollinators? Comment below!
prairieecologist.com/2012/01/ 18/why-i-care-about-prairies- and-you-should-too/amp/
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