The Community Pollinator Project by the Jennings County Soil and Water Conservation District continues to make strides and gain in popularity with residents.

Andy Ertel, the Soil and Water Conservation District’s executive director, started in 2015 a project to increase the local pollinator population by planting flowers and plants that attract pollinators and help them thrive.

Bees, butterflies, humming birds and some insects are examples of pollinators that are necessary to grow the fruits and vegetables that humans and animals need. Bees are the most prolific pollinators.

Because of a sudden shortage in the bee population, the United States Department of Agriculture sponsored a national project to increase the bee population.

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Jennings County’s took the cue and its efforts have resulted in pollinator gardens planted across the community, and individuals learning how to plant gardens of their own.

More recently, in May, the Soil and Water Conservation District completed its second annual plant sale and sold 2,100 plants and flowers for individual gardens.

Now the focus has been on erecting eight new billboards across the county that designed to encourage community awareness and involvement in the project.

Ertel and the district’s administrative assistant, Kelly Kent, began the project without any funding, equipment or labor.

“The first thing we had to do was learn about bees and then we had to figure out how to help them,” Kent said.

After a crash course in what bees, butterflies and birds need to survive, Ertel and Kent set about alerting the community to the crisis and presenting solutions such as planting gardens that attract pollinators.

They contacted Burpee Seed Company and received generous donations of seeds to help grow private and public pollinator gardens.

“We started out with six volunteers and now we have 20 committee members. We couldn’t do any of this without the community support we receive including donations from local businesses and organizations,” Ertel said.

In less than two years, the Jennings County Community Pollinator Project has won multiple state, regional and even national awards.

“We are not slowing down at all. We have many projects in progress and more in the planning stage. This will be a busy summer,” Kent said.