Through its annual County Activities of Excellence Awards, the American Farm Bureau Federation celebrates county Farm Bureaus for their unique, volunteer-driven programming. Kane County Farm Bureau was among 12 county Farm Bureaus recognized for their programs and activities in 2019 and 2020.
To illustrate two of the many ways farmers strive to improve the land, air, water and wildlife habitat, Kane County (Ill.) Farm Bureau last summer invited the public to join them in installing a pollinator/rain garden along a well-traveled road that ran by their suburban office in the northeastern part of the state.
The effort was also an opportunity for the Kane County Farm Bureau to show farmers how the water quality benefit measures in a newly passed stormwater ordinance could be achieved without the construction of costly stormwater detention basins. Kane County Farm Bureau had successfully lobbied to improve the ordinance via water quality benefit measures (best management practices) in lieu of stormwater detention on agricultural lands.
More than 2 dozen volunteers helped Kane County Farm Bureau plant its pollinator/rain garden.
Kane County Farm Bureau tapped the county Division of Environmental and Water Resources to design the pollinator/rain garden layout and choose the plant species. The department also provided a grant to the county Farm Bureau for the 450 plants for the 1,000 sq. ft. garden.
A contractor excavated, leveled and backfilled the garden area and one of the Kane County Farm Bureau directors provided the topsoil, compost and mulch. A local wholesale garden center was contracted to deliver the plants and county Environmental and Water Resources staff assisted in laying out the plants according to the design before the volunteers arrived.
Kane County Farm Bureau directors provided hand tools and power tools like shovels, pitch forks, drills and soil augers and the county Forest Preserve District sent an employee with a gas-powered auger to assist in making holes for larger plants.
On the day of the planting, July 19, more than 2 dozen volunteers ranging in age from 4 to 80 showed up to help plant the garden. Along with hats, t-shirts, water, soda and educational materials about pollinators, Kane County Farm Bureau provided garden tools, knee pads, gloves and a cooling station with a barn fan and mister. Once the planting was done, Kane County Farm Bureau treated the volunteers to a grilled lunch.
Not long after the installation was complete, the pollinator/rain garden was given a highly recognizable “Conservation@Work” designation and signage by a popular regional conservation advocacy group.
In addition, the county Farm Bureau was recognized by the county board’s Agriculture Committee for its work in partnership with the Division of Environmental and Water Resources in being proactive on behalf of its members in the establishment of the stormwater ordinance and for the installation of the pollinator/rain garden.
Several homeowners have asked Kane County Farm Bureau about the garden’s costs, plant species and how they can install one on their property. Kane County Farm Bureau has also shared the design and budget with several other county Farm Bureaus that plan to take on similar projects.
Applications are now open for the 2021 County Activities of Excellence. Up to 24 counties will display their winning activities at the 2021 American Farm Bureau Annual Convention and Trade Show in Atlanta in January. County award winners receive up to four free registrations to the Annual Convention (cost of travel and housing not included) and a $2,250 stipend to apply toward the cost of travel and exhibition.