Earlier this year, 28 high school agriculture and science educators in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin received $1,000 pollinator habitat grants from Sand County Foundation.

According to a recent press release, each grant was for 600 tiny native wildflower seedlings that students would grow this spring in their school’s greenhouse and later plant on school or farm properties.

Detroit Lakes High School was one of nine high schools in Minnesota to be awarded a grant.

Even with the hurdle of school closings this spring due to COVID-19, many of the grant recipients found a way to proceed with the project.

“Some teachers have repotted the plants in their homes to continue growing to a size that can be planted outdoors. Another school sent plants home with families at their school lunch distribution site,” reports Craig Ficenec, Sand County Foundation program director. “We applaud their creativity and commitment.”

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Essential for crop pollination and ecological diversity, the numbers of wild bees and monarch butterflies have dropped, partly because of the loss of native wildflower habitat near farmland.

To qualify for pollinator habitat grants, educators needed greenhouses or suitable indoor growing areas to raise seedlings of milkweed, prairie blazing star, wild bergamot, and other species. They also identified a location to transplant these native wildflowers. Grant awards went to the school district or local FFA chapter to offset project expenses.

Sand County Foundation is a national nonprofit that champions voluntary conservation practices by farmers and ranchers to improve soil, water and wildlife habitat.