On warm summer days when I am out foraging with my husband and kids, it’s easy for me to forget that our back country is different than a lot of what the prairies look like now. We are blessed to be surrounded by “untouched” and some protected land full of virgin prairie grasses and plants. The wildflowers are abundant, and the local plants & animals thrive here. We have a mix of grasslands, parkland, and boreal forest with badlands along the river valley.
I am conscious and aware of what plant species are endangered, which are abundant, and which are considered noxious weeds. I forage respectfully only what is abundant, not taking more than 1/3 of what is there (usually much less). I harvest only what I will use, knowing ahead of time what my plan for that plant will be, so that minimal will be wasted. When we forage certain plants, such as medicinal yarrow, we take scissors and snip the flower head off, taking care not to pull the entire plant which would kill it. Foraging is a mindful practice and I feel a sense of responsibility when taking the plant for my own use. Yes, I even leave the first dandelions for the hungry bees as they need them much more than I do. Many of the common wild “weeds” I use for our products grow so abundantly, I see them most places we go, such as stinging nettle or common plantain.
I want our native lands to flourish and keep rejuvenating so one day my own grandchildren have healthy grasses to walk upon.
Coming from a long lineage of farmers on both sides of our family, we were raised to feel a sense of pride and responsibility with being stewards of the land. As a grain farming family, we continue these lessons with our children. However, with a feeling of wanting to protect our native lands and plants, along with making our living off the cultivated land, this puts me in a bit of unique perspective. We are grateful for the trees growing alongside our fields for the protection from wind and soil erosion, along with it providing the natural habitat for animals and plants. I feel there is a place for both “worlds” and it’s up to us to balance this, with our children’s future in mind. I acknowledge I am not an expert on this subject and will be learning for the rest of my life. But for now, I am an environmentally conscious, nature-loving, land protecting farmer.