Resources

About Local Prairies

Athletic Field Complex

The athletic field complex, located north of 10th Avenue, includes not only state-of-the-art turf fields for our talented collegiate soccer and softball teams, but also several prairie plantings. About 3 acres of prairie were seeded in the fall of 2001 with 31 species of native prairie plants. A summary of the planting method, seeding rate, species list, bloom times, weed management, and observations over the four years following planting are included in Prairie Species List.

Maintenance has included spot treating thistles with herbicides and pulling or cutting flowering stems of white sweetclover (Melilotus alba) and yellow sweetclover (Melilotus officinalis). In addition, various patches have been burned in the spring, with the first burn implemented in the spring of 2004. The prairie plantings add structure and diversity to the area that are both aesthetically pleasing and functional, providing soil stabilization and filtering surface runoff. A photographic time series of the 2001 plantings is highlighted in the Center’s video “Prairie Through the Seasons” that premiered in 2007.

In December of 2004, an additional 1 acre was seeded with prairie species into a cover crop of oats on the west side of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, directly west of the athletic field complex. This mix contained an additional 17 species. Contact Larissa Mottl for a species list for this area. Blooms of several species were observed in the second growing season (2006), including gray-headed coneflower, bee balm, Canada wild rye, Indian plantain, false sunflower, and sneezeweed. The planting had a severe sweet clover infestation in 2006 and was subsequently mowed. Canada thistles have now become a significant maintenance issue for this planting.

Campus Prairie Gardens
"It has become my creed that a garden, to be a work of art, must have the soul of the native landscape in it.” -Jens Jensen, landscape architect (1860-1951)
“Indeed so reduced is the native vegetation here abouts, that Grinnell College was compelled perforce to establish a small botanic garden, where at least a specimen plant of native species can be had for study and acquaintance.” Henry S. Conard, professor of botany at Grinnell College (1906-1944)

Although Grinnell College acquired 365 acres about 11 miles from Grinnell in 1968 (Conard Environmental Research Area), where the biology department has reconstructed over 80 acres of tallgrass prairie and strives to maintain and restore many acres of remnant prairie, the distance from campus creates a barrier for most of our campus community to learn about our prairie heritage and experience some of its diversity first-hand.

The Center has been collaborating with Facilities Management since 2000 to incorporate prairie plantings and gardens into our campus landscape, with the Center advising on species composition, assisting with plant purchase, planting, and maintenance, and offering opportunities for campus and community members to learn about the gardens and landscaping with native plants. In addition to the aesthetic, functional, and historical aspects of having prairie on campus, the plantings serve a pedagogical purpose as well. Biology courses have used the plantings to study insect diversity, floral characteristics, and urban-rural ecological interfaces.  Our campus has incorporated several prairie gardens that range in age, size and diversity. In total, we have over 5,000 sq ft of gardens devoted solely to native plants, and many other gardens that have a mix of natives and more typical ornamentals.  

Campus Prairie Garden Map  

Jesse Macy House Prairie Garden

Established in May 2008, the Macy House Prairie Garden, located between the Macy House and 7th Avenue, features over 40 native tallgrass species in two areas that total 1,500 sq ft. The species were introduced as plants or seed, with plants placed about 8-10” apart and seed scattered on the soil surface. Species with shorter growing heights were selected, with the exception of compass plant, which was included as a few scattered plants. The garden site was prepared for planting with an herbicide application to kill the existing sod. Plants were dug directly into the dead sod. Many species flowered in 2008 and several short prairie grasses established from seed throughout the garden.    

John Chrystal Center Prairie Garden

Established in August 2003, the Chrystal Center Prairie Garden introduces campus visitors to our prairie heritage. The garden is located along the east side of the Chrystal Center, which is located at the corner of 6th Avenue and Park Street. The garden features over 30 native tallgrass prairie species and provides a variety of blooms from May through October. You can download a picture guide to the species in this garden. (pdf of Chrystal Center Garden plant photo/illustration ID guide)    

Community Garden Prairie

Established in December 2004, the Community Garden Prairie began as a small patch about 600 sq ft behind the straw bale garden shed and vegetable gardens located just north of 8th Avenue on the west side of Park Street. The planting was initially established using the seed mix from the college athletic field plantings, and later supplemented with prairie seedlings in May 2005. Jacob Gjesdahl ’10, with the prairie subgroup of Free The Planet, a campus student organization, took on management and expansion of this planting in 2007. The planting was doubled in size and seed was sown in the fall of 2008.    

Ecohouse Prairie Gardens

Established in May 2008, the Ecohouse Prairie Gardens were designed and installed by Jacob Gjesdahl ’10, Ecohouse tenant 2008-2009, with other student volunteers. Ecohouse is located at 1130 East Street. As of 2008, the gardens total about 1,250 sq ft. Native tallgrass prairie species were introduced as plants and seed, including black-eyed Susans, partridge peas, sideoats grama, June grass, prairie spiderwort, pale purple coneflower, cream wild indigo, wild petunia, false dragonhead, butterfly milkweed, and switchgrass.    

Noyce Science Center Landscaping

Native tallgrass prairie species have been interspersed with various other perennials around the foundation of the Noyce Science Center, particularly along the southwest and south sides of the building. Some of the native species include ironweed, butterfly milkweed, and smooth blue aster. The inner courtyard of the Noyce Science Center features a native woodland species, wild ginger, as a groundcover.  

City of Grinnell and Powsheik County Prairie Plantings and Gardens

The City of Grinnell’s official logo is “Jewel of the Prairie”. The City of Grinnell supports the establishment of prairie gardens and natural prairie plantings within Grinnell through its grass and weed ordinance.  Parks, school grounds, our Drake Library, residential yards, and corporate headquarters are a few places one can observe prairie in Grinnell.

Grinnell's Grass and Weed Ordinance (Chapter 52)

Grinnell’s Grass and Weed Ordinance (Chapter 52) can be viewed by downloading the city code and conducting a keyword search for “grass and weeds” within the document. The ordinance requires that owners of such prairie gardens or prairie areas submit a written application asking for permission to establish and maintain these areas. The application, submitted to the office of the Clerk, needs to contain the following:

1. A drawing of the entire property where the prairie/exotic grasses or wildflowers will be planted, and identifying the areas to be planted.

2. A copy of the actual mix used, the name of the company producing the mix

and a certification of the mixture.

After receipt of the completed application, the Council, at a public meeting, shall approve,

disapprove or approve the application with modifications.

Guide to Prairie Sites Near Grinnell, IA

Poweshiek County Prairie Roadside Tour

Parks

Master Parks Improvement Plan was completed by Dunbar/Jones, a landscape architecture firm based out of Des Moines, in August 2007. In the process of developing the plan, Dunbar/Jones sought and received significant input from the community about their desires for improvements to Grinnell’s park system. Landscaping with native plants and establishing prairie plantings in our parks were common requests. Dunbar/Jones incorporated prairie plantings in their designs for nearly all of Grinnell’s 9 parks; see Section 7 Park Plan.

Arbor Lake Park, located in southwest Grinnell, has several prairie plantings. One of the most visible and accessible prairie is the Hudson Memorial Prairie, located south of the dam. This prairie was originally seeded in the late 1980s or early 1990s and has been revitalized with additional seed and prescribed fire over the last five years. The Grinnell Youth Conservation Corps assists with invasive species control in this prairie during the summer.

Arbor Lake shoreline rehabilitation. Prairie and savanna species have also been introduced as plugs along the east and west shorelines of Arbor Lake after invasive shrubs (honeysuckles and buckthorn) have been removed. Many of these native herbaceous species can be observed flowering. Native shrubs have also been planted along the shoreline to provide plant diversity, soil erosion control, and wildlife habitat. The shrub species include buttonbush, ninebark, meadowsweet, false indigo, and elderberry.

Arbor Lake rain garden. A “Garden of Jewels” rain garden was established in the park in 2006 as part of the Arbor Lake Watershed Project. The garden was planted with plugs of native wet prairie species in 2006 and supplemented with additional plugs in 2007.  Weeding and additional planting are needed to help revitalize this garden. Contact the Grinnell Parks and Recreation Department if you would like to help with this garden. 

Schools

The Grinnell-Newburg Middle School planted “Tiger Pride Prairie”, a 4.3-acre prairie, located in the southeast corner of the school grounds, in 1980 and replanted in 1993. The prairie provides wildlife habitat, educational opportunities, and contains a diversity of native grasses and forbs including monarda, gray-headed coneflower, cup plant, rattlesnake master, spiderwort, and white wild indigo. The prairie is burned periodically. Fairview Elementary School was the recipient of a small prairie butterfly garden, designed and installed by Paige Greenley ’09 in 2008.

The butterfly garden at Fairview was about 120 square feet and was located around the back of the school next to the outdoor eating area. There were around 15 species in the garden including butterfly weed, wild columbine, purple coneflower, wild bergamot, blazing star, ironweed, black-eyed Susans, and wild rose.

Central Iowa Christian School, located at 201 380th Ave, at the west edge of Grinnell, planted a small prairie on their school grounds in the spring of 2008.

The fate of school gardens depends heavily on volunteers. If you can volunteer to help revive these plantings or tend new ones, please contact the schools and express your interest and enthusiasm.  

Public Library

The new Drake Community Library was completed in 2010, and landscaped with native wildflowers, grasses, trees, and shrubs, a wonderful tribute to the community’s tallgrass prairie heritage.  

Residential Prairie Plantings and Landscaping

Several Grinnell residents are enjoying the beauty and biological diversity of prairie in their home landscaping. Prairie landscaping can be observed at 542 10th Ave, 1901 Summer St, 929 Elm St, and 9 College Park Rd.  

Businesses

ASI-Modulex Prairie. Prairie home of Rusty the Giraffe, and family. This prairie, located about 3 miles south of Hwy 6 in Grinnell on the east side of Hwy 146, is 2.5 acres. Owned by Tom and Dianne Latimer, the property was acquired in 1992, and the prairie was started the same year the sign factory was built in 1993. The owners have established a good stand of big blue stem, switchgrass and Indian grass along with 25 varieties of wild flowers. The prairie has been burned several times, with additional seed planted after many of the burns. There has been very little management of this prairie other than prescribed burning. The desire to introduce prairie grass and wildflowers into an industrial environment was decided with environmental, beautification and economic considerations in mind.

Prairie Landscaping and Restoration

More and more Midwesterners are becoming interested in landscaping their yards with native prairie plants.   On a larger scale, some landowners have been restoring native prairie on a portion of their acreages. 

Landscaping with native vegetation provides a diverse array of colors, textures, and shapes for the eye to enjoy and, unlike lawns, does not require weekly mowing.  It also provides important ecosystem services such as preventing water runoff, retaining soil, and creating habitat for attractive and useful wildlife.

If you would like to learn more about how to make use of prairie plants, from small landscaping projects to large restoration projects, we encourage you to visit the websites of the organizations listed below. 

Plant Iowa Natives

Iowa Native Plant Society

Iowa Prairie Network -The Iowa Prairie Network is a grass-roots, volunteer, non-profit, organization that is dedicated to the preservation of Iowa's prairie heritage.

Iowa Valley Resource Conservation and Development (Amana, IA) -Our mission is to conserve and develop our natural resources in the Iowa and Cedar Valley areas through education demonstration and partnerships.

Resources at the Center for Prairie Studies

Collections

Art

The Center for Prairie Studies has a collection of artwork on display in various locations at Grinnell College.

Books

Volumes donated to the Center and otherwise acquired include field guides, yearbooks of agriculture, conference proceedings, and books on various prairie region subjects.

Emphemera

The Center for Prairie Studies has a collection of leaflets, programs, printed publications, posters, newspapers and magazines from several organizations on a variety of regional topics, from recent immigrants to changes in agriculture. A few of the sources in the collection are the Central for Rural Affairs, The Land Institute, Iowa Environmental Council, and The Nature Conservancy.

Recordings

Prairie through the Seasons

Prairie Through the Seasons, a 27-minute multimedia video features photographs by several local photographers, narration by Sandy and Betty Moffett, and music by Jonathan Chenette. The changes of seasons on the prairie happen gradually, yet are distinct. From May to October prairie blooms color the landscape with all of the colors of the rainbow. But even after the first heavy frost brings an end to the flowering, the prairie presents a lovely canvas in the russet hues of fall or decorated with winter snow. This video captures the beauty in each of the seasons on the prairie. Copies are available by contacting the Center for Prairie Studies.

Images of Rural America

Music by Jonathan Chenette, Aaron Copland, and the Grinnell Symphony Orchestra conducted by Douglas Diamond. The music on this disc gives two portrayals of rural America: one a picture of farm life and the rural landscape at the turn of the millenium, and the other an imaginative re-creation of a pioneer ritual of the early 1800s. Both affirm rural America as a vibrant center of American's yearnings and identity, while recognizing the farm realistically as a locus of both intense joy and extreme hardship. Copies are available by contacting the Center for Prairie Studies.

Videos

The Center has a small collection of videos on various topics such as prairie ecology, Midwestern agriculture, local food issues, and regional history.

Related Grinnell College Collections

Faulconer Gallery

Art of the Prairie Region Collection and Database.Grinnell College owns a variety of artwork related to the college's location in the Midwest.  

Department of Biology Herbarium

Grinnell College Herbarium Database Prototypeallows you to enter search criteria to locate specimens in the collection.

Iowa Room, Special Collections, Burling Library

Henry S. Conard served the Department of Biology at Iowa/Grinnell College* from 1906 to 1944. With his expertise in botany and bryology, with special emphasis on bryophytes and water lilies. An assortment of essays, sermons, awards, clippings, correspondence, manuscripts, and notes make up this collection of his work. Lenabel B. Courtney was a student at Iowa College around 1900, but this collection of tapes and transcripts from an oral interview with her grandson mainly details her life on an Iowa farm at the end of the 19th Century. Fleming Fraker Historic Iowa Post Cards. A collection of approximately 10,000 postcards from all Iowa counties. Includes town scenes, buildings, people, events, and catastrophies. Josiah Bushnell Grinnell founded the town of Grinnell in 1854 and was a trustee of Iowa College from 1854-84. These archived papers include correspondence, between the years 1852-54 and 1868-69, land deeds, and his 1850 diary. Leonard F. Parker was a professor of Greek and Latin at Iowa College from 1860-70 and of history from 1888-98. In Grinnell, he was involved with the public schools and the Underground Railroad. This is a collection of his notes and letters concerning his last book, History of Poweshiek County, published in 1911 just before his death. Selden Whitcomb spent most of his life in Grinnell. He was born here, graduated from Iowa College in 1887, and returned to teach English from 1895-1905. In this file are two personal journals, a poetry manuscript, and a notebook of nature observations with a few surprises.Paul Wilson Plant Image Database is an on-line database of flowering-plant images and information, using as its nucleus a collection of over 2,000 photographic slides donated to Grinnell by its alumus, Paul A. Wilson.

Faculty and Staff Scholarship

Jonathan Andelson (Anthropology)

2009 "Crosby's Footprint" in The Wapsipinicon Almanac (Fall)

2008 “Changing Heroes,” The Land Report 92:18-21 (Fall)

2007 “Letter to a Young Iowan,” in Letters To A Young Iowan, Zachary Michael Jack (ed.), North Liberty, Iowa: Ice Cube Press.

2007 “Joining the Food Revolution in Grinnell,” in Eating in Place: Telling the Story of Local Foods, Robert Wolf (ed.), Decorah, Iowa: Free River Press.

2006 "Food and Social Relations in Communal and Capitalist Amana," in Eating in Eden: Food and American Utopias, Etta M. Madden and Martha L. Finch (eds.), Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press.

2005 "Intentional Communities and the Sense of Place," presented at the annual conference of the Communal Studies Association, Harmony, Pennsylvania, Sept. 30 - Oct. 2. 2003 “The Center for Prairie Studies, Grinnell College,” presented at panel on Institutional Responses to Place, ACM Workshop: Prairies, Rivers, and Towns: Liberal Arts and the Pedagogy of Place. September 19 – 20.. Ripon College, Ripon, Wisconsin.

2003 “Putting Down Antaeus,” in Roots of Renewal: An Exhibition and Community Partnership, Lesley Wright (ed.), Grinnell, Iowa: Faulconer Gallery, Grinnell College.

2002 “Farming in East-Central Iowa Then and Now,” in Directory of Food Producers Who Market Locally, Grinnell, Iowa: Center for Prairie Studies.

2001 “The Center for Prairie Studies at Grinnell College: An Interdisciplinary Program in Place-Based Education.” Proceedings of the 17 th North American Prairie Conference: Seeds for the Future ~ Roots of the Past. Neil P. Bernstein and Laura J. Ostrander (eds.). North Iowa Area Community College, Mason City, Iowa.

2000 “An Experiment in Interdisciplinary Place-Based Learning At the College Level,” paper presented at the North American Prairie Conference, July 25, Mason City, Iowa.

Jackie Brown (Biology)

Publications:

Tillers: A Journal of Prairie Restoration Research 1999 Tillers: A Journal of Prairie Restoration Research. Volume I. Jackie Brown, and Chris Caruso, editors. Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa.

2000 Tillers: A Journal of Prairie Restoration Research. Volume II. Jackie Brown, and Chris Caruso, editors. Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa.

2002 Tillers: A Journal of Prairie Restoration Research. Volume III. Jackie Brown, editor. Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa.

2003 Tillers: A Journal of Prairie Restoration Research. Volume IV. Jackie Brown, editor. Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa. Brown, J.M,

2002. Home and away. Tillers 3:33-38. McGranahan, D.A.*, S. Kuiper, and J.M. Brown. In press. Temporal patterns in use of an Iowa woodlot during the autumn bird migration. American Midland Naturalist. Cooper*, I., E. Roeder*, and J.M. Brown.

2003. Arthropod response to burning and mowing in a reconstructed prairie. Ecological Restoration 21:204-5.

Presentations:

August 2002. Invited lecture: Promoting an understanding of biological inquiry: curricular reform and Grinnell College's Center for Prairie Studies. (J. Brown, C. Caruso, L. Mottl and V. Eckhart). Restoration Educaction Symposium at the Annual Meeting for the Ecological Society of America/Society for Ecological Restoration. Tucson, AZ.

August 2002. Poster: Effects of burning and mowing on arthropods in a reconstructed tallgrass prairie. (I. Cooper*, E. Roeder* and J. Brown). Annual Meeting of Ecological Society of America. Tucson, AZ.

July 2001. Prairie Restoration: An introduction to Biological Inquiry (J. Brown and C. Caruso) Annual Meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology. University of Hawaii at Hilo, HI. *indicates student co-author

Doug Caulkins (Anthropology)

August 7, 2003. Presentation. “Forging the Cultural Connections with the Old Country: The Welsh Diaspora in Mid-Western US.” Douglas Caulkins and Jennifer Robinson ‘04, 17th International Seminar on Marginal Regions: Government and Governance: Nations, Regions, and Communities on the Margins. Harlech and Aberystwyth, Wales.

January 30, 2004. Invited Presentation. “Murphy’s Law Meets the Buffer Initiative: How things can (and will) go wrong in creating a riparian buffer.” Trees Forever Board of Directors’ meeting, Krumm Arboretum, Newton, IA.

March 4 2004. Invited Presentation. “Welsh Diasporas: A Preliminary Report” St. David’s Day meeting of the Iowa Welsh Society, Indianola, IA.

April 4, 2004. Presentation. “Crafting a Holistic Web-Based Health Tracker for Lakota Reservation Diabetics.” Douglas Caulkins and Kristi Welch.

March 31- April 4, 2004. Society for Applied Anthropology annual meetings, Dallas, TX.

Vince Eckhart (Biology)

2008 King EG. Eckhart VM, Mohl EC Magnitudes and mechanisms of shoot-damage compensation in annual species of Linum (Linaceae) in Iowa. American Midland Naturalist 159:200-213.

2006 Eckhart, VM The flora of the Iowa River Corridor: Taking the long view. In: The Iowa River Corridor Book, R. Wolf (ed.), Iowa River Corridor Project.

Paula Smith (English)

2004 "Living by Corn," Iowa River Corridor Book II, forthcoming Winter (poem)

2002-2003 "Summer," reprinted in Directory of Grinnell Area Food Producers, (poem)

1999-2000 "Summer," Flyway Literary Review, Vol. 5.1-5.2, Fall 1999/Winter 2000 (poem) * peer reviewed

1999 "The Tallgrass on Fire," "The Grassland," "Rhizomes," The Land Report 65, Fall (poems)

1996 "Rhizomes," text for choral composition Broken Ground by Jonathan Chenette. Collaborative project commissioned by the Iowa Humanities Board and performed at various sites in the United States by the Des Moines Symphony and the Grinnell Singers during Iowa's Sesquicentennial Year "Out of the Land," text for choral composition by Jonathan Chenette, commissioned by Grinnell College for performance during the inauguration of President

Student Scholarship

Education

"Place and Agriculture in the Liberal Arts: An Agricultural Education Curriculum", Kip Kelley

Food and Agriculture

"Diversity and the Farmers' Markets of Central Iowa", Madelyn Gardner '12 (August 30, 2011)

"Soil Ain't Dirt: The Many Meanings of Soil in the Lives of Iowa Farmers", Madelyn Gardner '12 (May 2012)

"Sauk and Mesquakie Food Consumption in 1808", Jacob Gjesdahl '10 (April 26, 2009)

"Changes in the Meskwaki Food System: From Extensive Hunting to Intensive Agriculture and Wage Labor", Jacob Gjesdahl '10 (May 7, 2010)

"Iowa's Bison: Ancient Animals in an Industrial Landscape", Kayla Koether '12 (February 8, 2012)

"The Failure of Economic Authority", Ben Schrager '08

"Hog Hegemony: One local group's struggle to resist the expansion of corporate hog confinements", Sarah Shaughnessy '13 (May 2013)

"Generational Issues in Iowa Farm Communities", Caitlin Vaughan '10 (May 2010)

History

"Drainage on the Grand Prairie: the birth of a hydraulic society on the Midwestern frontier", Sam Imlay '12

Practicing Anthropology Student Projects 2012

Students in Professor Monty Roper’s “Practicing Anthropology” course in Fall 2012 had the opportunity to apply the lessons of anthropology by working in groups on behalf of an organization in Grinnell that sought assessments and advice regarding some issue or challenge the organization faced.  The course syllabus stated, “We will learn and practice appropriate methodologies as well as the roles that anthropologists can play in policy by serving as practicing anthropologists in the Grinnell community.  Students will form several research teams, each of which will carry out a needs assessment, program evaluation, or some other project on behalf of a Grinnell organization.“

Preparedness for Higher Education among Grinnell High School Graduates - Sarah Burnell and Dylan Fisher

An Evaluation of Galaxy, inc.’s Fundraising Strategy - Charlotte Hechler and Katie Fenster

P.A.L.S. Volunteer Retention Project- Final Report - Hanan Romodan and Amber Whisenhunt

Spotlight on Art

This page highlights a work of art from the Center for Prairie Studies collection that is currently on display in the living room of Macy House (1205 Park Street). We invite you to visit Macy House to see the original work, which will change four times a year.

Mark B. Schneider
SNOW GEESE, 2011

“I saw this stunning group of thousands of snow geese from I-80, and got off at the next exit. After driving a few miles, and hiking a couple more, I got close enough for this shot.” Photograph taken with a Canon 5D and a 400 mm L series Canon lens, handheld. Exposure was 1/1000 sec at f/11 on March 6, 2011 at 5:00 pm. at Wood River, Nebraska. Print made June 2011, C-Print on Kodak Endura E-surface paper.

Purchased with Center for Prairie Studies Art Acquisition Funds.

Director's Corner

The Fair Field of Sustainability

Some very interesting things are happening with regard to sustainability down in Fairfield, Iowa, as members of my Intentional Communities class and I discovered during a visit there in late April.  Fairfield has 9,500 inhabitants – just about the size of Grinnell –and is the county seat of Jefferson County.   The imposing 1891 stone and brick county courthouse, with an outsized bell tower, is situated in a picturesque town square and conveys the impression of quintessential small town Iowa. However, a drive around the community quickly dispels that notion, since Fairfield is also home to Maharishi University of Management, Abundance Ecovillage, some enormous greenhouses (one of which covers two acres), and the “suburb” of Vedic City, the newest town in Iowa, where all buildings are constructed according to the principles of sthapatya veda, an ancient Indian system of design and construction based on natural law.  All these not-typical-Iowa features of Fairfield are connected in one way or another with the arrival beginning in the 1970s of a sizeable number of followers of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1918-2008), a guru and the developer of transcendental meditation. 

We were fortunate to have as our guide for the day Lonnie Gamble, a professor at the university, director of its Sustainable Living Program, and one of the founders of Abundance Ecovillage. Seen through his eyes, Fairfield appears to be at the forefront of sustainability efforts in Iowa. The new Sustainable Living Center at MUM, for example, is constructed of compacted earthen blocks made of dirt from the nearby parking lot; tree trunks (from local trees) that provide the building’s structural support; and special thermal windows. The building incorporates thick walls, passive solar design, and a surrounding sleeve of insulation. Photovoltaic cells and wind turbines generate the building’s electricity.  Due to the high insulation factor used in the building’s construction and daylighting in every room, some of it through skylights, the SLC actually produces more energy than it uses; the surplus is routed to other buildings on campus. The SLC is surrounded by “edible landscaping.”  All the landscaping on campus is  created using organic methods, and all of the food served in MUM’s dining hall is organic – and vegetarian, and much of it local from gardens and those large greenhouses.  Abundance Ecovillage and Vedic City are as remarkable as MUM’s campus in terms of sustainability. For more about them, visit Fairfield’s website.

All this is relevant to Prairie Studies not only because Jefferson County, like most of Iowa, was originally prairie, but because one of the main goals of these efforts in Fairfield resonates with an important theme of the Center: learning to live sustainably in place, which means using renewable, local resources as much as possible, getting off the grid as much as possible, and avoiding potentially harmful synthetic chemicals and expensive, unsustainable technology as much as possible.  A strikingly impressive, potentially transformative experiment is underway in Fairfield, and we should be paying attention.

Past Director's Corners:

Community and Regional Resources

Grinnell Community
Regional Links