In recognition of the United Nations designation of 2010 as the Year of Biodiversity, the Four Rivers Environmental Coalition and The Rock River Times presents this bi-weekly series to help readers discover the amazing array of plants and animals in the rivers, prairies and woodlands “in our own back yard.” FREC is an alliance of 35 member organizations “dedicated to educating and advocating for the plants, animals, natural resources and ecosystems of the Four Rivers Region.” Please visit fourriver.org.
By Constance McCarthy
One of the places that makes my heart happiest is Angelic Organics, a biodynamic farm in northern Boone County. But wait, isn’t this series supposed to be about biodiversity? Indeed, it is.
As biodiversity refers to the diversity of plant and animal life within a particular area, I don’t think it is constructive to draw lines around certain parcels of land within which we’re concerned about biodiversity, while overlooking the overall biodiversity of all the land within an area.
So, how do farms contribute to or detract from biodiversity? The average commodity farm would likely exhibit very little biodiversity, with only one or two crops (corn or soybeans) being grown on large parcels of land. Organic farms, according to the United Nations, are custodians of biodiversity on several levels. Natural areas within and surrounding such farms, combined with the absence of chemical applications, help to create habitat that welcomes and sustains wildlife.
A beautiful oak savanna sits adjacent to some of the Angelic Organics fields, while areas alongside other fields are full of native plants. These help to attract pollinators that are vital to the vegetable crops, and also sustain the bees in the farm’s hives. Birds are attracted that feast on the many insects—pest control the way nature intended it, rather than as a result of harsh pesticides.
My favorite place at the farm is the natural area along the north branch of Kinnikinnick Creek. Fed by springs, its waters are crystal clear. A path along the edges of nearby vegetable fields leads into the woods. After meandering among some huge oak trees, it leads to a small garden bench that sits extremely close to the edge of the steep creek bank. This is a most mesmerizing spot to perch, listening to the creek gurgling below, watching the patterns made by the water as it encounters rocks and vegetation. The rest of the world quickly seems a million miles away.
On the opposite side of the creek, a large swath of tall grasses bend and shake as the breeze sweeps across them. This unique habitat is home to birds and animals not found in many other places. I’ll never forget the day when, sitting on my favorite bench, I heard a birdcall I’d never heard before, a distinctive machine gun-like rattle. Just as my friend, an experienced birder, said, “Sounds like a belted kingfisher,” sure enough, this beautiful creature flew past us, over the creek. With its shaggy blue-crested head, long black beak, white belly, and slate blue wings, it was a sight to behold.
Although Angelic Organics is a working farm that is not open to visitors on a daily basis, the public can interact with it through Angelic Organics Learning Center, the nonprofit educational partner of the farm. Walking tours are offered from time to time, and a variety of on-farm programs allows one to visit this special place. These include school group visits, adult workshops (about topics such as organic gardening and cheesemaking), day camps, and family-friendly activities (ice cream-making or interacting with the goats, chickens and cows).
To learn more, visit LearnGrowConnect.org.
From the Sept. 8-14, 2010 issue