ELKHART, Iowa –A non-profit conservation group is working to restore prairies around the state, and volunteers can help work on a project this weekend.
The noise is a little different when you get out of town. "Even when you just stand for a second and be still, you can hear all the insects and birds and it's kind of a peaceful place to be," said Mary Runkel, Volunteer Coordinator for the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.
Runkel described the Snyder Heritage Farm in Elkhart, which is located about 25 minutes outside of Des Moines. Alfred and Gladys Snyder donated the land to the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation 25 years ago. "They kind of wanted to see it protected from urban sprawl," said Runkel.
"They wanted it to be a place for education and refuge for wildlife. We've been lucky enough to kind of make that happen out here," added Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation Communications Director Joe Jayjack.
The 154 acre farm was previously used to grow corn, soybeans, and livestock. Now, the land is restored prairie. "So now you'll see these native ecosystems, prairie, and wetland, and savannas all over here. It's really amazing to see what Iowa used to look like," said Jayjack.
The heritage farm is private property, but the public can check it out at an upcoming seed harvest. “We’re hosting a seed harvest on the beautiful Snyder Heritage Farm where people can come out, and we’ll take them to a special place on the prairie, and we’ll hand harvest seeds into baskets to really later be used to expand the prairie,” said Runkel.
Volunteers will search for up to one hundred different kinds of prairie plants. No experience is needed. INHR Land Stewardship Director Ryan Schmidt said, "It's as simple as hand harvesting the seed, taking the seed off the plant.”
He continued, “We’ll collect these seeds, pool them all together, lay them out to dry, and then when it’s time to restore the prairie, we’ll simply scatter the seeds on the ground and let the prairie come.”
Organizers say it’s a very meaningful project for the organization. "Prairie seed is not easy to come by. If you buy it, it's expensive. We'll be able to use this prairie seed to do more restoration on Snyder and other places in central Iowa. It means a lot to get people out here and helping us work on the land," said Jayjack.
The seed harvest is Saturday, September 17th at Snyder Heritage Farm. You need to reserve your volunteer spot. You can RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Mary at 515-288-1846 ext. 17. You can also find information on the INHF website.