Landscape designers and landscape architects do more than just aspire to contribute to a vibrant culture, nevertheless that hope – that ambition – to do more is an essential step. Our hope is that this article might be informative to introduce who we are as a design build landscaping company and present our opinion of optimism for the future.
“The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.”
– Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture, 1977
There is something wonderfully democratic about food, everyone must eat! Gathering around the table for a meal reminds us that we also deserve to eat, it is a fundamental human right, and moreover that we have an obligation to ensure that others can too. Understanding the food chain negates the notion that we are autonomous individuals and highlights our interdependence. Not only are we reliant on an extensive worldwide network of farmers, shelf-stackers, growers, chefs, bakers, abattoirs, food scientists, vets, and bus drivers to feed us several times a day, we are even more dependent on healthy soils, bees, rainfall, worms, sunshine, and the rest of the biosphere to keep our food systems humming. This complex reality is so often misunderstood or – even worse – ignored for short-sighted rationale of convenience or profit.
Pollinators are almost as essential as soil, water, and sunlight to the reproduction of more than 76% of the planet’s flowering species. These plants, insects, and animals are pivotal to the production of the majority of nuts, berries, and fruits on which we and all wildlife depend. Over 155 food crops in the United States are dependent on pollinators and this ecosystem service is estimated to be worth $19 billion. In Minnesota there are thousands of species that contribute to this system, including over 400 species of native bees. Our pollinators face challenges on many fronts, they have experienced declines due to stressors such as habitat loss and fragmentation, depletion of floral resources, non-target impacts of pesticides, climate change, diseases, and parasites.
A central landscape design component to the VNF patio is a series of pollinator garden plots that feature a variety of plants integral to completing the life cycle of these essential species. A series of infographics along the patio’s long bar outline the pollinator narrative and identify plants and rationale for the gardens. The six plots are organized to bloom throughout the season and present specific physical traits such as smell, shape, and color that attract and nourish our diversity of pollinators. The featured pairings include: Sky Blue Aster for Soldier Beetles, Nodding Onion for Hover Flies, Prairie Phlox for Monarchs, Butterfly Milkweed for Hummingbirds, Prairie Clover for Hummingbird Moths, and Heart Leaved Alexander for Bumblebees. Without these interdependent species our environment would look very different. In 2020 the Co-op will be installing honey producing hives on their rooftop and the pollinator plots will provide a visible connection to this feature, highlighting the organization’s commitment to action in addition to education.
Last summer Natural Environments Corporation, also known as NEC Landscaping worked closely with Valley Natural Foods (VNF) Co-Op to design and construct an outdoor gathering space for events and casual dining with informational signage that promotes awareness of our world’s interconnected food systems. The Co-op’s mission is to work in partnership with the South Metro community to support health and well-being through education and expertise in local, sustainable food and wellness services. Two primary avenues for education were selected, pollination and soil health, both highlighting the importance of Minnesota’s native prairies.