Bees Flying Around Box

PolliNation project is buzzin'

Acres of new pollinator habitat are starting to sprout

The hive is buzzin’ at Land O’Lakes, Inc. That’s a literal beehive. This past year, we teamed up with the University of Minnesota Bee Squad to install an observation hive colony—part of their Hive to Bottle program—at our headquarters. The bees made it through their first Minnesotan winter, and as summer rolled around, we thought their neighborhood could use some sprucing up. So just a few weeks ago a team of employees got down and dirty, planting a garden full of native plants and wildflowers next to the hive.

And thanks to the PolliNationTM project, this isn’t the only new garden that’s buzzworthy. The project’s goal is simple—create and maintain safe and flourishing habitats across the country where bees and butterflies can thrive. To us, feeding the bees and butterflies just makes sense. We have the expertise, the research and the nationwide reach. 

As July rolls around, acres of new pollinator habitat are starting to sprout thanks to the project. More than 25,000 packets filled with a pollinator-friendly wildflower seed mix have made their way to employees at our locations across the country from North and South Dakota to Arkansas, Missouri and Florida, to Ohio and many more. Seeds were sent to the WinField Crop® Adventure in Fair Oaks, Indiana and to the Afton Apple Orchard in Afton, Minnesota. And in addition to our employees, many moms, dads, grandparents and friends have put their garden stakes in the ground. 

We’ve received updates on a weekly—often daily—basis. Here are a few update from friends of pollinators.

Making a meadow

Chuck Mason, agronomy service center manager, wasn’t quite sure what to expect when he and the WinField Agronomy Service Center (ASC) team in Paris, Missouri sent out an email to the PolliNationTM project team back in Minnesota. The team was excited to help the bees and butterflies, but the ASC facility is surrounded by gravel. Not very pollinator friendly. But Chuck had an idea up his sleeve. 

Along with fellow employees John Ess and Shannon Van Horn, they scouted a long stretch of land (a whopping 5.65 acres worth!) on John’s property along Highway 24. 

“We thought this land could be a great place for wildflowers,” says Chuck. “And we think it’s our responsibility to do a better job of telling the story of agriculture. We figured we could put a sign up at this spot for people to see what’s happening as they drive by.” 

Receiving enough seed to plant more than 5 acres seemed like a bit of a long shot. However, Chuck, John and Shannon are in luck and seeds were soon on their way. With a dry summer forecast, the team is slightly delayed in their planting. They hope to have enough rain to plant before fall. Before we know it, there’ll be plenty of pollinator habitat to go around. 

“I have grandchildren, and I think they’ll get a kick out of the stretch of wildflowers,” says John. “We’re trying to feed the world and pollinators are at the base of that. They’re the beginning and that’s where you have to start.”

Growing gardens and gardeners

When Katie Hines, OE Learning & Development instructional designer, first heard about the PolliNationTM project, she was thrilled to get her hands dirty. So it is no surprise that she was right there, knees in the dirt, when the garden at headquarters went in next to the hive. 

“Any excuse I can find in the middle of the day to get in the dirt makes my day even better,” says Katie. “I’m quite passionate about gardening. I got the bug early, since I was a child. My dad is a master rosarian and has over 100 roses in his garden, so I’m very familiar with the process.”

On planting day, Katie, along with more than 30 fellow employees, headed outside to first hear from the PolliNationTM project team and the University of Minnesota Bee Squad. Then the team turned to planting. A master gardener from that Minnesota State Horticultural Society had put together a plan inspired by the neighboring Land O’Lakes’ R&D building. 

“It’s an experiment!” Katie says. “We planted four separate sections, each with a different variety of plants. We’ll check in throughout the summer and see which section the bees prefer.” 

While planting, Katie and some fellow gardeners even decided to start a club to swap gardening advice and encourage others to join in. 

“A garden is a canvas you can work with every single year,” says Katie. “People always say, ‘Oh, I can’t garden. It’s too hard!’ I say just give it a try. It’s exciting to see the beauty that comes from the earth after you spend a little time investing in it.”

Sowing seeds 

Vicki Traub knows alfalfa. She should, as distribution manager of the Winfield US warehouse in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Vicki also knows that without bees, alfalfa production couldn’t exist. So when wildflower seed packets arrived at her site, she quickly requested more to share with friends and local prairie restoration sites. 

The team in Sioux Falls planted their own garden and is also handing out seed packets to every person that backs up to their plant dock, with the goal of spreading the seeds across as many states as possible. 

“Our hope is that people take these packets and plant them because bees and butterflies are so much more important than most people realize,” says Vicki. “This has also been a great team building opportunity for us. We’re taking turns caring for the gardens during the week and over the weekend.” 

Celebrating National Pollinator Week 

Friends of pollinators, we want to hear from you. Has the PolliNation project inspired you to plant a garden? You can let us know about your garden by sharing a picture using #PolliNation and tagging Land O’Lakes, Inc. And as the summer continues, don’t forget to spread the buzz.