Walking the Green Path: Supporting the Butterfly and the Bee

Bee foraging for pollen

Growing up with a father who collected butterflies and moths meant summertime walks through fields and along rural roads as we tried to cover a wide range of habitats that would attract these pollinators.  I have fond memories of traipsing through pasture and prairie taking in flowers I couldn’t name but learned to identify by their shapes and colors and smells.

I’m guessing that my experiences of these adventures were a bit out of the ordinary, and indeed they shaped a part of me that I think is a bit odd for a 1970’s suburban kid.  The butterfly in the Butter Bakery Cafe’s logo is, in a way, a call out to these memories and the father who inspired them.

I also like to say, at times, that our butterfly is a symbol of transformation, a desire to share my hope for a better food system, for restoration of the earth, and for the connections we are making with the young adults of Nicollet Square who share time with us as interns.  Where there was once just a caterpillar of not so lovely impressions becomes a creature of beauty and grace.

Recently, the butterfly logo has taken on a new task to visualize our support of pollinator-friendly practices.  I guess that in the way things work, I’m back to the beginning, looking for butterflies among the flowers.

If I am to be a sustainable business that supports local food systems and urban agriculture, I will need to assure that this food system will be sustainable.  And if our local food system is to be healthy, it needs a healthy ecosystem to support its pollinators.  Without pollinators, our local food production is in jeopardy.  And the impact doesn’t stop there, as the loss of pollinators affects declining populations of birds, aquatic organisms, amphibians, and more.

Many studies about the decline of pollinators point to our culture’s reliance on chemicals, pesticides, and insecticides as well as on monoculture lawns. These have been devastating to bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.   We’ve put ourselves in a precarious place by removing the food and fuel that pollinators need and by poisoning the creatures that are essential to providing our food and maintaining a healthy ecosystem in which we also live.

I find it hopeful that Minneapolis has resolved to be a pollinator-friendly city.  In 2015, the City Council passed a resolution that urges residents and businesses to adopt pollinator-friendly practices.   And while I have been actively involved in providing a pollinator-friendly residential space all the years I’ve owned a home in Minneapolis, I’ve only recently had the opportunity to do this on a business level too.

In 2014, the cafe supported the creation of a boulevard community garden to bring flowering plants to the area along 37th Street.  This year, we added efforts along our Nicollet Avenue side, replanting a dead sod boulevard with native grasses and flowering native plants.  Although it is just a tiny plot, it is something.  We have created a small oasis of pollinator forage that can be available to the bees and butterflies around my cafe.

In May the Kingfield Neighborhood Association Board pledged to support the city’s efforts and is asking its residents and businesses to take action.  I’m hoping that the Lyndale Neighborhood will do the same for its residents and businesses – urging more gardens, fewer pesticides, and improved habitats throughout our southern patch of Minneapolis.

We’re a heavily residential and commercial area, with lots of sidewalk and roadway breaking up our green patches.  And yet, we’re still part of a major bird migration flyway and once this part of Minneapolis was the city’s farmland and before that a prairie habitat.

As I seek to imagine my business’ place in southwest Minneapolis, I often talk about being a destination.  I am a place for customers to land, rest, refresh, and reset before moving along to new places.  My pollinator garden, boulevard gardens, bee-friendly practices, and insecticide-free zone are my response as a businessperson to be a destination for pollinators too.

Lawn by lawn, block by block, we can all pledge to stop using pesticides and go chemical-free on our lawns.  We can all avoid choosing plants that have been treated with insecticides.  And we can encourage garden stores and places that sell lawn and garden supplies to provide safe, pesticide-free alternatives.

Our purchasing power has the power to change the way we care for our natural spaces and has the power to rebuild our local and urban agricultural food systems. And our voices go a long way to encourage our elected leaders to support more pollinator conservation efforts!  You can get more involved locally through www.pollinatorfriendly.org

I look forward to sharing more butterflies with you as we meet along the green path that together we can restore throughout Minneapolis.

Walking the Green Path is a series of stories by Daniel Swenson-Klatt, the owner of Butter Bakery Cafe, about what it’s like to run a small business focused on sustainability and building community.

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