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Planting Seeds | Issue 1

published April 2017

 GROWING THOUGHTS: The Faces Behind Agriculture    

by keena.crone@sharpseed.com

The world we live in today is undoubtedly busy. As citizens we go about the daily grind, usually beginning with an early morning cup of coffee and ending with putting the kids to bed or reading a good book before finally succumbing to sleep. For those who are involved in the many facets of agriculture, this reality is no different. However, the people behind this vital industry are truly outstanding individuals and are far from ordinary. “Going the extra mile,” “to lend a helping hand,” and “a job worth doing is a job worth doing right” are phrases that have subtlety faded over the years in many parts of this great country. In rural America, these phrases remain the pillars on which a group of people who work tirelessly to provide for our nation and our world’s well-being continues to stand.

The most recent evidence that this tenacity and fortitude still exists can be found among the many faces behind agriculture that have been recently affected by the destructive March wildfires. Throughout Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Texas, the wildfires have scorched countless acres of land, miles of fence, thousands of cattle, millions of dollars of personal property, and have even cost human lives. The outpouring of support from the small ag communities that dot the land has been monumental. The brave firefighters, EMT’s, police, and emergency personnel and ordinary citizens responded quickly with courage to contain the fires.  Local grocery and convenience stores quickly responded by sending water and food to the crews, many of which had been working for 15+ hours. As the fires were contained and eventually ceased, the devastation was revealed and soon after followed one of the greatest displays of human kindness: HELP.

The citizens of small town communities, not only in Kansas but also neighboring states as well, began to work together to provide relief for those who had lost not only their businesses but their livelihoods. Thousands of hay bales have been trucked in to feed the cattle that survived and to sustain them this summer while the prairie recovers. Donations have been coming in, and many community organizations are raising money to help the victims regain their footing. The support and generosity of this country’s ag community have been uplifting and inspiring to say the very least. It’s humbling to witness so many people come together to help their friends, family, and in many instances, distant strangers.

Knowing that there is enormous work to be done in the upcoming months, I take comfort in knowing that the resilient people of the plains who work in and among agriculture will call on the fortitude mentioned above and tenacity to rebuild and forge on. And there is no doubt that their ag communities and friends are behind them and ready to help in all possible ways.

Wildlife Relief:
*National Cattlemen's Beef Association*
Kansas Farm Bureau
Kansas Livestock Association
Colorado Farm Bureau
Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association
West Texas A&M Wildfire Relief


 "What's all the buzz about?"                                

Attract Pollinators with Local Wildflowers
by jeff.allen@sharpseed.com

All the 'buzz' around wildflowers in recent year has caught suppliers across the United States by surprise, causing a bit of a wildflower shortage. As more and more people started to notice a lack of our little winged insect friends buzzing about in our yards at barbeques and in the parks, "what does it mean?" began to creep into the minds of, not just those in agriculture, but in the everyday person; missing the Monarch Butterflies they used to see each summer as children. 

The push to "Save the Bees" has driven the cost of a typical Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) up $35-55 to $100 an acre. We saw a great increase in calls and requests for information and seed mixes to increase pollinator in the last few years. Research and entomologist recommendations helped us create two new blends (Monarch Butterfly & Honeybee Mix and Bonnie’s Butterfly & Bee Mix) including flowers that bloomed at different times through the spring, summer, and fall, and produce pollen and nectar essential to providing and sustaining honey bees, butterflies and even hummingbirds (we don't see as many of those as we used to either).

Many worldwide companies have jumped on the flower-wagon, promoting their exchanging a field of moneymaking ground to flowers, creating campaigns to raise awareness. Recently Honey Nut Cheerios’ manufacture, General Mills Inc., gave away billions of wildflower seeds in their #BringBackTheBees promotion. Pledging to give away 100 million wildflower seeds when they removed the iconic ‘BuzzBee’ from the box in March, the response was immediate and within one week they had received requests for 1.5 billion seeds from people all over the United States. The promotion was extended after good results last year when it was released in Canada.

The hiccup? The company sourced the wildflower mix from a company based in Canada and while the mix does by all appearances meet the needs of bees and butterflies, some are ‘weeds’. Now, no need to panic, not all ‘weeds’ are created equal. A weed is defined by Merriam-Webster as: “a plant that is not valued where it is growing and is usually of vigorous growth, especially: one that tends to overgrow or choke out more desirable plants.” What makes wildflowers wild, are that they grow in natural places without being planted by people. Narrowing down the difference between wild and weeds isn’t the easiest thing. Depends on where it is growing: The USDA has a page on their website have a breakdown noxious weeds by state and below that there is a list organized by plant species. The companies claim: “in most locations, the seed mixture species will be non-native but not considered invasive”. Invasive or not, back in the day if you wanted more flowers in your yard or acreage you went to your local supplier, who offered seed native to your area. The buy-it-online world we live in today makes it easy to procure seeds from different retailers in different states with a click of a button. 

The closest we can get to restoring bee and butterfly habitats by planting forbs and legumes, is by planting wildflowers native to our area. Local wildflowers are already adapted to the climate, soil type and insect population, and the wildlife and insect population are adapted to them. Many insects and plants have pre-existing symbiotic relationships. Think Nemo and the anemone. Noxious introduced plants can over run native ones, disrupting existing ecosystems; much like drought tolerant/heat loving weeds taking over your lawn in the heat of summer, after you neglect watering for several weeks.

The Cheerios promotion merely gives us the opportunity to shine a light on the difference between native and introduced seed, and encourage you to seek direction from your local greenhouse, NRCS office, or Sharp Bros. Seed dealer for help determining what flowering plants are best suited to bring back the bees and butterflies to your area. There are a lot of factors contributing to the decline in bee and butterfly populations, we encourage you to research and learn more about pollinators in your area.

What's important when you purchase wildflowers?  

 Maximizing Wildlife Food Plots                               

by ryan.burke@sharpseed.com

Wouldn’t it be great if we could just plant a certain mix of seeds and all the wildlife you would ever want be there forever? The problem is most people think that way without looking at the big picture.  Some of the most important things wildlife need are a habitat that they feel very safe to bed down in, a palatable and nutritious food source and close water source.  Just eliminating one of the components could really hurt the effectiveness of your plot and reduce your success.

Habitat can include but not be limited to a mix of short and tall native grasses that produce some short of shelter but also not to thick and tall that there is no escape route.

A food source is probably the largest and most confusing part of the equation.  There are many choices, in every season of the year from wheat, oats, sorghum, corn, soybeans, turnips, radishes, clover and the list goes on.  Whatever you plant make sure you take soil samples for fertility and soil ph and  plant products that will grow in your climate and soil types!  

The hardest to achieve and most important part is the water component, for some people hauling water is about the only option.  When you can put all three of these together your plot has the best opportunity to provide a wealth of wildlife for hunting or just watching for years, but it will take some work and time.

Wildlife Habitats & Food Plots