Watershed’s first Missouri Prairie Foundation (MPF) Native Plant sale was a tremendous success! Hundreds of customers visited the Watershed Center to safely pickup prepaid orders from vendors throughout the state.
It was exciting to share the enthusiasm of reestablishing native plants with the customers visiting the park. Native plants are integral to soil health, pollinator and wildlife habitat, erosion prevention, biodiversity, and nutrient runoff reduction. The virtues of native plants are becoming increasingly understood and utilized in a variety of applications in agriculture, rural development, and urban development. We think they are beautiful both physically and functionally.
During the sale we had many other additional “Aha!” moments:
- The sale introduced WCO and the park to a new audience. Many of our customers were new to our website and/or new to the park. We often heard comments like “What a beautiful place, I never knew this was here.” Many lingered to hike the trails or made plans to soon return.
- Conversations with people picking up plants lead to new connections for future projects or events. Many of the discussions lead to plans for future endeavors like field trips, planting additional natives, or other potential future projects.
Through the Watershed Natives program, the Watershed Committee filled 157 orders for hundreds of native wildflowers, trees, and shrubs. This program is part of a collaborative effort with Springfield Public Schools. Students in the Hillcrest FFA and College & Careers Pathway programs participate in growing plants as an integral part of their curriculum. Funds generated from the sale are put back into the Watershed Natives program.
There are some amazing native plant growers in Missouri, and in particular, we want to thank Missouri Wildflower Nursery and Forrest Keeling for helping set us up for success. We recognize that a rising tide floats all boats, and we need to increase partnerships and production locally and statewide to keep pace with demand. We intend to build Watershed Natives into a financially sustainable program through plant sales, but the investment of the Darr Family Foundation and Community Foundation of the Ozarks provided the start-up capital to begin. We are excited about the future of this program and grateful to those mentioned here for helping us get started.
Jeff Birchler, Watershed Center Coordinator