Shami Morse and her siblings own their family farm in Iowa County, Iowa. They established 16 acres of prairie strips on a 200 acre row crop field in the fall of 2014. She chatted with J. Arbuckle from the STRIPS team on July 16, 2018 about why she sees prairie strips as a good option for their cropland.
J.: How were you first introduced to the prairie strips?
I first heard about them at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day. Matt Helmers was talking about them at the Iowa Learning Farms Conservation Station and I was immediately intrigued by the idea. I also learned more about them when I was an intern at Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge in 2013.
J.: What were your goals for establishing the prairie strips?
If it were financially feasible, I would have all 200 acres of our field in reconstructed prairie. The strips were kind of an excuse to justify having my own little piece of prairie. I’m fascinated by the history of the tallgrass prairie in Iowa. According to early land surveys, the entire township where our land is located had zero trees prior to European settlement – just wide-open prairie.
My siblings and I also wanted to honor our mother’s legacy of conservation and her love for the land. She started prairie plantings on the farm back in the 1980s, before it was popular.
J.: How did you go about establishing prairie strips on your farm?
I met with Tim Youngquist in the summer of 2014 and he worked up some preliminary plans based on the contours of the land. Then Tim and other members of the STRIPS team came out to the farm and met with me, our operator, and our farm manager. We adjusted the design based on our operator’s suggestions, and they staked it out that same day. We planted a pollinator mix in December of 2014. We added extra milkweed species – butterfly, common, swamp, and whorled – to help with monarch butterfly conservation.
J.: Do you think other landowners would be interested in implementing prairie strips on their land?
I really do. I think female landowners around my age who want to have a positive impact on their land would be especially interested. Farmers love their land and don’t want to see it deteriorate. Some feel they need to farm more aggressively due to economic conditions. Once we demonstrate that there are economic benefits to prairie strips, there may be a lot more owners who will want to get involved.
J.: What recommendations do you have for other landowners interested in prairie strips?
For your own appreciation of the strips, learn about native prairies and the process of prairie reconstruction. Don’t look at the strips from just an economic standpoint, but also the scientific and aesthetic benefits as well. Let yourself fall in love with the prairie.
You can contact Shami to learn more about her prairie strips at Shami.Morse@gmail.com.