By Shirley Shuman
Along with Jeremy Cantrell and other representatives from the Elk Conservation District as well as the Town of Gassaway, and the Elk River Trail Foundation planted a pollinator field in Gassaway last Wednesday. Helping with the project were the fifth-grade students from Davis Elementary and their teacher, Emily Backus.
Elk Conservation District administrative assistant Mary Beth Smith explained how this project developed. “One of our members, Jeremy Cantrell, who is on the board of the Elk River Trails Foundation, contacted the DNR about the project,” she said. “The DNR sent biologist Audrey Mechtenberg to this area to determine what wildflowers are native here.”
The biologist came up in April to walk the trail and catch bees, determine the species located here, and analyze pollen on their legs. From there, she came up with a list of wildflowers which will grow well here. Cantrell brought the information back to the Conservation District, and they decided to sponsor a pollinator field space in Gassaway, according to Smith.
Aaron James of the Produce Shack lent a tiller for the project, and Heath Cliver, superintendent of ERTF, tilled the area between the Gassaway Depot and White’s Garage. Using a spreader, Cantrell sowed the flower seed as Backus’s class watched. Then, before they began their part in the project, Mechtenberg and Cantrell explained to them the purpose of the pollinator field and what they hoped to accomplish.
Then each student received wheat seed, which they sprinkled on the site and then trampled into the ground. Then rakes were used to mix the seeds into the dirt. Next, the students took straw which had been purchased at Freedom Ag and Energy’s store, spread it over the field, and then walked the length of the field to clump it together and flatten it.
Everyone declared the project a success including the students who participated Backus not only reported that her students enjoyed their experience but also gave her view of the experience. “We are blessed to be in a community that wants to involve our students. It’s important to be proud of Gassaway, to want to make it beautiful and have an impact on the future,” she said. “This community project allowed my fifth graders to see that impact and feel that pride. My students are already talking about visiting their wildflowers this summer.”
Some of the students’ comments showed their reactions. Kaitlyn Dobbins definitely liked the experience and expressed it well. “I really enjoyed being outside and planting flowers in the fresh air. I hope they all grow and everyone enjoys them,” Kaitlyn said. Kassidy Hall declared, “We all had fun and learned about the flowers.” In response to a question about the importance of planting the flowers, Isabella Blake responded, “It helps the butterflies and insects. You need flowers for bees to pollinate.” Isabelle summarized the reason for the pollinator field quite well.
The pollinator field project is just one of several in which various groups are trying to improve local areas. With this project, wildflowers which will grow and bloom in the area will provide benefits to the natural world through pollination along with their beauty for all to enjoy.