You’ve heard the saying, “Many hands make light work.”
Joe Jayjack, communications director for the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF), said that’s exactly what the INHF is hoping to see — many hands and many volunteers — for its three upcoming prairie seed harvest events in the Maxwell and Elkhart area. These are great opportunities for families and service groups or individuals to take part in.
One will be the Central Iowa Seed Harvest this Saturday at Snyder Heritage Farm. The second will be the Moonlight Seed Harvest on Sept. 30 at Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt. The other will be a prairie seed harvest at Snyder Heritage Farm on Oct. 7. All three events are hosted by the INHF.
This weekend’s event, on Saturday, Sept. 16, is a celebration for Iowa Prairie Heritage Week.
“The Sept. 30 event is in cooperation with Polk County Conservation,” Jayjack said. “The Oct. 7 event is in cooperation with four other land trusts in Iowa: Bur Oak Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy in Iowa, Sustainable Iowa Land Trust and Whiterock Conservancy.”
Jayjack, who has been with the INHF for three years, said for those who have never taken part in a prairie seed harvest, what people do is pretty simple and is pretty important. “People hand-pick or gather seeds from prairie plants, usually separating them by species into different bags. The seeds will then be used for future prairie planting and restoration,” he explained. “Native prairie seed can be difficult to mechanically harvest and separate, so hand-harvesting is the most efficient way to do it… The work of our volunteers is vital to our restoration efforts.”
By participating in the harvests, people and kids can learn about different prairie species, both plant and animal, that are native to central Iowa. Jayjack said kids are not only welcome to attend with adults they know, but they often make great seed harvesters because many of the plants are at their eye level.
According to Jayjack, the INHF usually sponsors about eight prairie harvests a year, spread out across the state. Having these three upcoming events on properties that are so close in proximity is a great opportunity for locals to participate in the activity by joining in one, two or all three upcoming harvests.
Snyder Heritage Farm, the site of this weekend’s harvest and the Oct. 7 harvest, is a private preserve owned and managed by INHF. It was donated to INHF by Alfred and Gladys Snyder 26 years ago and has slowly transitioned from a traditional farm to an exquisite blend of prairie, oak savanna, wetland and woodland ecosystems. “The Snyders had a great passion to preserve the integrity of the farm and protect it from urban sprawl,” Jayjack said.
Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt, the site of the second harvest on Sept. 30, is owned and managed by Polk County Conservation. INHF helped to acquire many of the pieces in the Greenbelt and transfer them to public ownership. Being an event that will be done in the evening makes it a unique one. “It’s not often you can do field work by moonlight,” Jayjack said. “There is a fun atmosphere and families love this event. After the seed harvest, we’ll gather around a campfire at the Youth Camp Area to enjoy s’mores and celebrate the arrival of autumn in good company under the soon-to-be-full harvest moon.”
A prairie seed harvest event usually lasts around three hours. The Sept. 15 prairie seed harvest at Synder Heritage Farm near Elkhart will start at 9 a.m.
The Moonlight Seed Harvest at Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt near Maxwell will start at 6 p.m., and end with the campfire and treats.
The Oct. 7 prairie seed harvest at Snyder Heritage Farm will start at 1 p.m. Participants are invited to make a day of it by staying for a guided afternoon hike through the oak savanna of Snyder Heritage Farm, billed as an amazing prairie oasis.
Jayjack said the INHF asks that people RSVP for these events to make sure the agency has the necessary supplies, food and staffing to make each event an enjoyable time for everybody.
“Seed harvests are some of our volunteers’ favorite events. It’s a beautiful time of year to be on the prairie, the work isn’t too strenuous and it’s an educational opportunity,” he said. “We hope to have a lot of people join us.”
To RSVP, call INHF Volunteer Coordinator Melanie Louis at 515-288-1846, ext. 35. To keep your eye on more events and opportunities to volunteer and learn, visit www.inhf.org/events.