LOOKING AND LEARNING AT MICHIGAN WILDFLOWER FARM
By Ruth Oldenburg, WORC Communication Chair
A hearty THANK YOU to Esther Durnwald and her crew at Michigan Wildflower Farm (MWF)!
On June 19, over 30 Wild Ones and friends walked through the perfectly planted farm fields in Portland, about 40 minutes from Grand Rapids. What a pleasant evening it was learning about the farm’s growing and processing of native genotype seed.
Esther first talked about the history of MWF. Originally the farm was owned by Harry and Elin Doehne. It was a strawberry farm, but in 1988 the couple removed the strawberry plants and founded Michigan Wildflower Farm. They began planting native Michigan plants to provide seeds for MDOT’s wildflower planting initiative along Michigan highways.
Esther worked at the farm and learned the business from its founders. She and her husband Bill purchased Michigan Wildflower Farm in 1996. The farm produces documented native Michigan genotype seed, supplies Great Lakes Region native seed and provides ecological landscaping services including consulting, training, site preparation, installation and management.
We then headed out to the expansive fields, where we saw rows and rows of native plants that were planted in holes in landscape cloth serving as a weed barrier. This allows for hand weeding around just the plant. In between the rows was a strip of mowed perennial rye.
To discourage deer browsing, they are experimenting with a product called “Deer Stop”—a white tape wrapped around the perimeter of a section of the field. The tape acts as a barrier and is sprayed with Deer Stop repellant.
We learned of the different ways they harvest seeds. For example, the big bluestem grass is harvested by a machine that brushes the seeds off. Many plants are harvested by hand—very labor intensive work!
MWF uses various seed drying/processing methods. We saw yards of wild lupine seeds drying on a tarp on the barn floor, covered with a sheet. Fans were blowing over them to speed up the drying process.
Kudos to MWF for their role in promoting the use Michigan native plants and preserving native genotypes. We learned so much!
Photos by Barbara Zvirzdinis, Linda Gary, and Ruth Oldenburg