Prairie Flower program planned Aug. 9
For Dwight and Bev Rutter, prairie plants are more than a feature of Iowa's natural heritage: They are income-generating crops the Rutters have turned into a thriving, full-time business.
Dwight and Bev operate The Prairie Flower near Spencer, where they raise local-ecotype native prairie and wetland plants and seeds; native-cultivar, pasture and hay seed as well as lawn grass mixes on 600 acres.
The square-mile property includes a prairie remnant; 60 acres of native grasses, restored shortgrass and tallgrass prairie; engineered ponds and the Little Sioux River. In addition to managing their own prairie, the Rutters consult and assist on prairie restoration projects in the region – and they offer many ways for the public to explore and learn about their prairie.
"Our farm is very well-suited to native plants, rather than the traditional corn and soybeans," Bev said. "People can explore the native grasses and flowers that were indigenous to this area, before modern civilization has all but eradicated them."
The Rutters will share their experience with raising prairie for profit from 9-11 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 9, at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day on their farm near Spencer (1760 290th St., about 10 miles northwest of town). The event – "Raising Prairie: Seeds, Plants and Restoration" – is free to attend, and will include a light lunch. The field day is sponsored by Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.
Guests will get to tour The Prairie Flower's expansive prairie and wetlands, and learn how the Rutters worked with local ecotypes to expand their prairie and wetlands. They will discuss how they built ponds to enhance their ecosystems and share how they have managed invasive species and added multiple enterprises to their prairie-farming business.
Other topics they will cover include prairie seed harvest by hand and machine; seed cleaning and sales; and site selection for restored prairies, wetlands and ponds.
"We hope to educate people about the need for conservation through the use of native plants and grasses for clean water, habitat and the pure enjoyment of bringing birds and pollinators to them," Bev said.
• Directions from Spencer: Take U.S. 18W / Highway Boulevard north out of town. After about 2 miles, turn left (west) at the junction of U.S. 71 and U.S. 18. Continue on U.S. 18W as it turns west and becomes U.S. 18W / 320th Street / W 44th Street. In 4 miles, turn right (north) onto 180th Avenue.
After 3 miles, turn left (west) onto 290th Street. The Prairie Flower will be the first house on the north side of the road, just before the Little Sioux River. The Rutter name is on the black mailbox, and there are two large solar arrays in the driveway.