NORTH VERNON — The Jennings County Soil and Water Conservation District is creating a buzz with its efforts during the past year to make the county more friendly to pollinators.
Pollinators such as bees are necessary to human life and wildlife and need to be protected, Andy Ertel, executive director of the soil and water conservation district, told about 100 guests at the district’s Pollinator Field Day on Tuesday at the county fairgrounds.
Ertel used the field day as an educational opportunity for interested people, and the soil and water district has led the way in establishing local pollinator protection partnerships — particularly with schools.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that one out of every three bites of food humans eat exists because of pollinators, according to literature distributed at the field day.
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While bees are the main pollinators in North America, other types include butterflies, moths, birds, bats and some insects.
Pollinators are necessary because three-fourths of the world’s flowing plants depend on them to reproduce, but the existence of pollinators is threatened, Ertel told the field day crowd.
“We need you to do things,” said guest speaker Fred Whitford, a professor of botany and plant pathology at Purdue University.
Whitford mentioned three things individuals could do to help pollinators:
Plant bee-friendly flowers.
Provide water to the bee population.
“It ain’t hard folks, it’s fun,” Whitford said.
Whitford added that in all his years of work and study in the field he has never seen so much interest in a project.
“What they have done here in just a year is amazing,” said guest speaker Joe Robb, project leader of Big Oaks and Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge Complex and project leader of Big Oaks near Madison.
Robb specifically noted the new Pollinator Pathway at the fairgrounds. The soil and water district has created more than 400 acres of pollinator habitats in the county, such as at the city and county parks, the fairgrounds and at schools, Ertel said.
“I learned about the pollinator projects through my husband’s work, and I thought it would be a natural for the kids to become involved. I brought it up at a meeting, and it really caught on. Already there is a pollinator garden at every elementary school, the middle school and the high school,” said Amber Fields, Robb’s wife and Jennings County School Corp.’s administrative assistant for business operations and buildings and grounds.
“It seems to be very good for the kids. They are really getting into it because they are learning many new things by being involved,” Brush Creek Elementary School librarian Lisa Coons said about the pollinator garden at her school.
Lisa and Mike Coons attended the Field Day to learn more about the preservation of pollinators on their farmland.
“They are saying this is a grassroots movement, but the government is also involved and that has helped,” said Mike Coons. “There is a government program that pays me to plant certain plants on the farm. They tell me which plants, and I plant them in areas where I couldn’t grow crops. So that helps me, and it helps the bees, too.”
“There’s other help, too,” Mike Coons said, nodding toward Larry Winfield, master agronomy advisor. “We have to use pesticides in farming. We have to, but Larry and others are there to help us do that with the least amount of damage to the environment.”
Farmers from Jennings and nearby counties attended the field day, as did professional and amateur bee keepers, and discussed various topics related to protecting pollinators.
Some people attended to learn how they can help pollinators thrive.
“You don’t have to have a big yard or fancy garden to help. You can plant a pollinator garden in a container, and Andy Ertel will show you how,” Lisa Coons said.