News from Garfield Farm
On Saturday, August 9th at 9:30 am, Garfield Farm Museum will offer a hike on the prairie led by museum biologist, Jerome Johnson and the museum’s new prairie restorationist, John Engstrom.
For over 23 of its 31 years, Garfield Farm Museum has been restoring the remnant prairie and oak savanna using invasive species control techniques and some installation of native plants by seed or plugs. The hike will feature both the plants in bloom as well as the history of the land as first impacted by settlement. The recent climate history, the success or lack of success with certain management techniques, expectations, and future hopes for the restoration progress will be discussed.
This will also be a chance for the public to meet John Engstrom. Engstrom has had experience with the private restoration firm Witness Tree and has headed up restoration efforts with the Dundee Township Open Space program. His expertise and responsibilities allow for a concentrated effort of restoration year round. Previous restoration efforts were seasonal and limited by time available to assist the prairie volunteers at the farm.
What was once believed, preserving and setting land aside to remain wild, proved a need for active management to retain the many different types of native plants. The introduction of management through controlled burns, physical or herbicidal removal of invasive plants, and reintroduction of missing native plants became the next recognized method of preservation. More intense management has arisen where the rarest of native species may be missing their native pollinators and as a result, hand pollination at great effort and cost has been used to save such rarities as the eastern prairie fringed orchid. Only now are there hints that certain soil bacteria or fungi potentially missing from the ground, maybe very important for certain native plants to thrive. Currently, a realization that re-establishing the greatest diversity to a prairie or oak savanna might require limiting the quantity of tall native grasses so native flowers can get a good foothold.
Concerns lurking around the corner with potential climate change are increasing costs of oil and the acceleration of invasive plants and animals from abroad, This will require even more efforts and expense to preserve what survives. Increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been proven to increase the growth and vigor of the native but not entirely desirable poison ivy. Other plants, especial invasive species may likewise become even hardier. Already, the most commonly used herbicide in prairie management, glyphosate (Roundup for example), has become less effective on certain weeds found in crop fields. Many oil based herbicides and the fuel for chain saws, brush cutters, etc. are increasing in cost. The potential of a longer and warmer growing season may push some species towards local extinction if they don’t or can’t readily spread north to cooler or wetter climes.
These are all experiences that Garfield Farm has had or anticipates as the mere act of saving the land is just the start of stewardship if future generations are to benefit from a healthy environment and economy.
Yet all these concerns can quickly fade from mind as one walks amongst the towering grasses, 8-10 foot tall saw toothed sunflowers, or gazes across a hillside and valley splashed with the purples of wild bergamot, the yellows of coneflowers that give way to the pinks of water loving Joe Pye weeds.
There is a $6 donation for the 2 hour hike. Appropriate hiking shoes, hats, mosquito repellant are recommended. Reservations can be made by calling 630 584-8485 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Garfield Farm Museum incorporates the three themes of history, farming and the environment in its preservation and interpretation of this historically intact 370 acre Illinois prairie farmstead and former teamster inn that is being restored as an 1840s working farm museum. The museum relies on donations and volunteers. The museum is located 5 miles west of Geneva, IL off ILL Rt. 38 on Garfield Road.