Community shares the joy of restoring a miraculous little piece of America’s Great Prairie
Story by Darwin Anthony
When you farm the prairie for a living, you can’t help wondering what the land looked like before we came to break the sod and plant our crops.
Pioneers described the American prairie as a seemingly endless sea of grass, broken only by strips of trees along rivers and streams. Few of us today have seen even a vestige of that magnificent sight, and I’m one of those lucky few.
Up until the 1970s, we had 160 acres of virgin land called Lindgren Prairie in our county. This piece of ground was very special to many of us in our small southern Minnesota community, as the last things of their kind usually are.
When we heard that the farm’s new owners planned to break the sod, we asked them to preserve an acre. They agreed, but it was still indescribably sad to see the sod rolled under on the other 159 acres.
The little plot of prairie history we saved sits on a curve in the highway, with a sign that tells Lindren Prairie’s story. Our local 4-H Club takes care of it as part of their Community Pride Project, and it has won several awards.
Inspired by this, we restored part of our family farm to prairie several years ago. We planted native grass seed and watched nature perform its miracle. Not only have the grasses we planted flourished, so have native prairie flowers that we didn’t plant. Where did they come from? I don’t know. But I do know that nature finds amazing ways to heal itself—and us, if we let it.
As I walk through the shoulder-high grasses in late summer, the big bluestem and switchgrass seem to surround me and draw me back to the days when they stretched to the horizon for hundreds of miles. I recall stories of men having to stand on their horse’s backs to search for landmarks over the waves of grass, and I believe them.
The native grasses seem to be getting thicker, taller and happier each year. It’s as if they know they’ve returned to their home.