JUNE 2018 SEEDWORLD.COM / 25 TIP Training Beyond Turf Osborne says while course management teams are highly skilled at dealing with turf, native plants, wildflowers and other habitat species can be tricky to get the hang of because they are so different. “There is a learning curve. It’s a new growing environment. But from what I’ve seen firsthand, these guys do not avoid the challenge. They are growers and shift- ing their areas of expertise to manage these plots differently, and they are doing a good job,” Osborne says. In many cases, what starts as a chal- lenge, ends up becoming a hobby. “They are just good at growing, and this fits right into that,” Osborne says. Gray says there are studies coming out of Florida that show pollinators can even encourage beneficial insects that actually help control turf pests. “We’re all learning that creating a habitat has a lot more benefits and larger impacts than just looking nice on the course,” Gray says. The Right Mix Osborne says the right seed mix goes a long way toward ensuring success of a project. Gray agrees. “There have been some programs that have taken a more cookie- cutter approach to planting, but some varieties are difficult to grow in parts of the country,” he says. Milkweed, especially, can be difficult to grow in parts of the desert southwest, or in the wetlands of Florida, so it’s impor- tant to use the right seed. And, there are sometimes even seed shortages. It’s also important to manage expecta- tions. “We want them to know this isn’t just a one-time thing. It’s a long-term commitment,” Gray says. Osborne agrees some coaching on the front end is important, so everyone is clear on the commitment, the goal, and the expectations. “We want to make sure they understand the purpose of the project. Managing a habitat isn’t an overwhelming burden or anything, but it’s important to manage those expectations from the beginning so we can help them be successful,” he says. Education Opportunities Local students are also benefiting. “There have been a number of cases where they have involved the local grade schools and invited them the golf course to see the plot and pollinators at work. They get a better idea how to be good stewards of the land,” Osborne says. At sites with hives, this is even more exciting. “Some of these superintendents have started beekeeping, or are work- ing with local beekeepers, and it’s great when students can come see those hives, or even decorate the hives and really be involved in the project,” Osborne says. “It’s great when we see kids out there. They just really enjoy learning in this envi- ronment.” Growing Beyond the Greens As Operation Pollinator grows, Osborne would like to see more habitat plots out- side the traditional farm setting, and he thinks golf courses are just the beginning. “We are starting to interact with some utility companies to see about the possi- bility of managing that space as a habitat. It helps them with the land management aspect and provides some positive public relations opportunities,” Osborne says. Solar farms are another spot where Osborne would like to see more habitat creation, and he’d like to see more cities and municipalities get involved. “Working with parks departments can have an impact both on educating the community and supporting the health of native pollinators,” Osborne says. Stories about these off-farm projects mostly spread by word of mouth, espe- cially online. Osborne used to be hesitant of social media, but he has seen the positive effect it has had in spreading the word about pollinator habitat projects. “When utilized properly, it can play a large role,” he says. Still, there are challenges. “We are lucky the buy-in isn’t a chal- lenge because there are not a lot of grants for natural resources protection on golf courses like there are for farms. The sector has not been included in a lot of conversations, and these clubs foot the bill,” Gray says. “If courses weren’t supplying resources, these projects would be impossible to maintain long term. However, you don’t have to be too inven- tive with water quality projects to see how riparian buffers and rain gardens can benefit pollinators.” Kane is hopeful there will be more government support in the future, but he isn’t willing to wait. “There is a push for different agencies to promote pollinator initiatives that com- munities could potentially tap into, but we aren’t going to wait for government fund- ing. We’re working on this now,” she says. Gray is excited about the future as more groups begin to participate in pollinator efforts and new alliances are formed. “We’re building an exciting coalition with different groups participating as we try to broaden the discussion to a more comprehensive landscape approach. “It’s interesting and rewarding to get them to think about expanding those efforts into more suburban and even urban settings to complement that work,” he says. SW It’simperativethatasanindustrywetakeaproactiveapproachinprotecting pollinators.operationpollinator.com “If courses weren’t supplying resources, these projects would be impossible to maintain long term.” –Marcus Gray