Harvesting seeds in Loess Hills brings new life to the Iowa prairie

The cost of America's amazing growth came with the loss of prairies that once covered the heartland.
Published: Oct. 12, 2022 at 12:53 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONEY CREEK, Iowa (WOWT) - From these native seeds, the prairies can take hold.

“Iowa has the best soils in the world. The prairies made those soils.”

In Iowa’s Loess Hills, Lance Brisbois of Golden Hills Resource Conservation and Development is harvesting seeds with the help of volunteers. They’re gathering some of the more than 300 “local eco-type” seeds native to Hitchcock Nature Center. They’ll be planted to revive the prairie in parts of this conservation area.

“The prairies provide a lot of great benefits, including water quality,” Brisbois said. “They have really deep roots, they can reduce erosion, they can reduce flash flooding even.”

And for the volunteers, bringing just a bit of the prairie back has meaning.

“Oh its so calming, it is, its a great way to de-stress.”

Laura finds peace and wonder here. She and her friend have taken part in the harvests before, and work themselves in other community garden projects.

“It’s only been in the last couple of years that I’ve learned how to look closely and appreciate the beauty of it,” she said.

College student Kayla grew up nearby. She and her friend Noah are getting credit for a class at Iowa Western Community College.

“I think it’s just a fun opportunity, a beautiful night to do something helpful for the community,” Noah said.

Sherrine and Laque are here for the connection with a rare native landscape.

“I go to some of those places in Nebraska that are ‘off-the-beaten-path’ places and it’s just so neat to see these plants growing in their habitat, both where they’re assisted by humans but also where they’re unassisted,” Sherrine said. “It’s really cool.”

“Today we’re picking native seed from remnant prairies,” Brisbois said. “Less than one-tenth of 1% of Iowa’s prairies remain. Most of that are in the Loess Hills, so they’re very unique and rare.”

“The seed we’ll be picking today will be used for restoration projects primarily at Hitchcock Nature Center and the Crescent Ski Area, for (restoring) wildlife habitat and erosion control, too.”

Since the seeds are best used in the area where they are harvested, these will mostly go to those projects.

How to help

There is another scheduled seed harvest at Hitchcock Nature Center on Oct. 23. There are several locations where the public can join the harvest under the guidance of Golden Hills RCD.