Grow Native Group Teaches Kirksville’s Gardeners To… Well, Grow Native

In a time where the extinction of the bee is a very real concern, Missouri conservation group Grow Native is making strides to help us understand what’s at stake and how we can stop it.

Grow Native is an organization under the roof of the Missouri Prairie Foundation, and according to their website, they’ve been dedicated to their cause since their conception in 2000– dedicated to the planting and preservation of native plants.

Native plants, those that naturally existed in regions prior to human development, are paramount to conservation in several different ways according to Betty Grace, a committee chair for Grow Native. Grace said that growing native flowers can better help the environment by filling vital roles specific to their region, and filling those roles for a longer period of time.

“Native plants are extremely well adapted to their environment– from rainfall, to climate, to soil…” Grace said. “Some of them play even larger roles, like how the deep roots of the prairie plants mitigate flooding.”

Grace compared this sort of practical planting to the urban trend of rain gardens, a type of garden designed to absorb excessive amounts of runoff. Despite what some might believe, the Grow Native movement actually first picked up strength in urban areas. Even now, the idea of growing native is no less important in urban areas than it is in rural communities. Thinking that a rural and agricultural community might know these things already is a poor assumption, Grace said, and it’s part of the reason Kirksville was host to a Grow Native workshop this past Saturday.

The event took place at the MDC regional center, and Grace said she thought it went very well, in spite of her modesty. Grace said she was very excited with the turnout that was just short of a hundred. The event was a day-long workshop that offered numerous guest speakers, a luncheon, and plant vendors selling region-friendly, native plants.

The turnout consisted of many older folks, but Grace said she was not disappointed with the lack of a younger audience. When asked what the workshop might bring to an already agriculturally-inclined community that depends on new information about plants for their livelyhood, Grace felt the need to clarify.

“Because it’s rural, we want to think it’s agricultural– but this was really a reachout for an uncommon market. It’s so much easier for urban area events like this to work for us. We thought, let’s take this movement– this kind of workshop– make it available to rural residents of MO.” Grace said.

To put it another way, it’s a fair assumption that there are far more retired citizens with gardens than there are farmers in all of Macon County. If each of these gardeners took something from the Grow Native message, we could see a much-needed influx in pollinators, Grace said. It was as the conversation began to encroach on these pollinators that Grace realized just how much there was to say– after catching herself in the middle of an explanation of the honey bee non-nativity to America.

“You could talk about this kind of thing for a week and learn everything.” Grace said.

Though you may not have a week, Grace encourages those who are interested in learning more about Grow Native to check out their website: