Growing More Than Food

The Peoria Public Library District recently sponsored a program called Peoria Reads and the book they chose was Nature’s Best Hope by Douglas W. Tallamy.

We requested two copies – the original and the young readers’ version. We’ve read through both and based on Tallamy’s research and proposed solutions to our environmental crisis, our commitment to supporting diversity on our farm and land has only intensified.

Dr. Tallamy stresses the importance of home and landowners adopting practices that support a variety of species including planting native plants & trees, eliminating pesticides and allowing wild places for plants & animals to thrive. This includes reducing the amount of high maintenance lawn that is proven to support the least amount of life. He shares research comparing areas (including yards) with native plants to those with non-native trees, shrubs, etc. The areas that support the most species are those planted to natives.

Why is this important? Because species depend on each other for food, shelter, etc. He explains how caterpillars are an important source of food for birds but these critters are particular about what plants they eat. If we exclude native plants that play an integral role in hosting caterpillars, birds may not have the food they need to grow, reproduce, feed their young and make it through the winter, if necessary. Everything is connected and we humans do a very good job, although not always intentional, of interrupting that connection.

Dr. Tallamy wants us to rebuild that connection….right in our own yards and gardens.

His call to action is an idea called the Homegrown National Park where the biodiversity supported in our national parks is extended to our own backyards and communities. As an ecologist who’s studied the environment for decades, he is sounding the warning that in order to support life (this includes human life!), we must support and maintain wild spaces not just in parks but everywhere.

Susannah has embraced this idea in preparation for her camp counselor position this summer. She will return to the Ancient Oaks day camp in Peoria where she will guide 6-7 year olds through a summer of outdoor activities. And, part of those activities will be sharing and practicing the Homegrown National Park idea in each child’s own backyard.

While the full version of Nature’s Best Hope is somewhat dense with facts and numbers (very important!), Dr. Tallamy’s ideas are very clear. Now is the time for all of us to do our part to support our living world.

Here are some of the practices we employ to support the species on our organic farm:

  • NO pesticides including no lawn chemicals, no insecticides, no toxic insect sprays.
  • Less mowing! More wild places. Where we don’t mow, wild plants thrive like goldenrod, wild aster, clover, trees and shrubs. This is where species thrive.
  • Our land and pastures are covered in perennial pasture. We do not rototill our garden and soils are always covered in some type of mulch or cover crop just like nature practices.
  • Planting flowering plants for pollinators like milkweed and other native species.
  • Always asking the question as we approach new growing & land management ideas – will this promote life on our land?? Promoting life, not killing, is our goal.

Every time we focus on life and make this farm more species friendly, we are rewarded with a diversity of natural wonders. Try it in your own yard – even a few flowering native plants can be a start of something wild and wonderful.

Thank you for listening and doing your part!