The Prairie State Nursery, LLC was officially founded in December of 2016. Long-time friends, Brian Dose and Andy Stahr, preliminarily discussed the idea one morning after church and solidified the idea while enjoying the festivities at the 2016 Wine Festival in Ottawa, IL. Andy understood the industry and knew there was a demand, Brian had access to land... IF we could convince "Farmer Bob" (Brian's Dad) to allow us to grow Milkweeds and Thistles at the farm! While initially hesitant, Farmer Bob decided to lease us two and one-half acres and see how it goes. In our conversations, Bob recalled that his dad (Brian's Grandfather) had always tried to grow a diversity of crops and was keen on thinking outside of the box when it came to traditional Farming. Cautiously optimistic, we began to collect foundation seed from local remnant natural areas, including from a strip of prairie that boarders the railroad running across the back of the farm. In January and February of 2017 our first plots were installed, to our surprise we were able to collect seed from a few species that year! The following year, almost everything we planted yielded seed! Using some of the seed grown in plots, as well as additional seed collected from remnants, we installed an additional two and one-half acres of seed plots in March of 2018 and doubled that again in the fall of 2019. We continue to re-invest our revenues into new seed cleaning equipment and expansion.
Our Focus and Our Challenge
We are a little different from other growers, but different is good! We are focused exclusively on the production of Illinois Ecotype native seed at our farm. Not only that, but we are driven to find and grow multiple species from multiple Illinois Counties, preserving Illinois' genepools for generations to come. As of the end of 2021, we were growing 128 different species from 28 of Illinois' 102 Counties.
This is also our greatest challenge. Illinois has less than 1/10th of 1% of its original native prairies remaining, mostly due to agriculture and development. Much of the remaining "remnant" vegetation occurs on private or public land that have restricted access... so finding landowners willing to allow collection on their property is key to the success of our mission. If you are a land owner, believe you have remnant populations of native vegetation on your property, and are willing to allow us access to your property for seed collection... please call us today! We would love to put your genotype into production!
Behind the Name and Logo
Our Name: Illinois is known as "The Prairie State". Our company name has two meanings; one is literal as we are proud to be based in the "Prairie State" growing seeds native to Illinois and of Illinois ecotype; the second less-obvious meaning is a state of mind concerning landscape and agricultural practices... particularly as we grow and venture outside of Illinois. Our vision is to encourage our fellow humans to approach land management with a "Prairie State of Mind", converting our landscape back to its native vegetation wherever feasible... as God intended.
Our Logo: The Greater Prairie Chicken (Tympanuchus cupido, Figure 1) with a grassland background was chosen as the basis of our logo (right). This unique bird is a characteristic species of the prairie and was extremely prominent in Midwestern Native American culture. Prairie Chickens historically could be found in 18 states throughout the Midwest and in a handful of states in the Northeast (Figure 2), however Illinois is the only state where the bird could be found in every county. The Prairie Chicken depends on large contiguous un-fragmented grassland for survival and breeding. As the prairies were systematically destroyed following European settlement, for agriculture and development, Prairie Chicken populations also declined rapidly. The Prairie Chicken's reliance on the prairie ecosystem, specifically within the State of Illinois, represents the critical importance that The Prairie State Nursery will have in the re-establishment of native systems throughout the Midwest.
Figure 1: Greater Prairie Chicken (Tympanuchus cupido)
Find out more about it here!
Figure 2: Native Range of the Greater Prairie Chicken
Prairie State Nursery was founded by Brian Dose (Left) and Andy Stahr (Right). Brian is a life-long resident of LaSalle County, whose family has farmed the same land for over three generations. Originally from the Quad Cities, Andy re-located to LaSalle County with his family in 2006. When Andy and his wife Jennifer first settled in Ottawa, Jennifer provided daycare out of their home. Brian and his wife Ami were two of Jennifer's first clients, she ultimately helped raise all three of the Dose children... in the process the Stahr's and the Dose's became dear friends. It's nice being in business with great people!
About Brian: As a full-time Firefighter, Brian is no stranger to hard work and dealing with complex situations. He earned his Bachelor's from Southern Illinois University. At the nursery Brian is focused on operational logistics (planting, maintenance, harvest, seed processing, etc.) and oversees the business financials. In addition to his Firefighting and nursery work, Brian is also an elected member of the LaSalle County Board.
About Andy: Andy recently accepted a full-time position with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) overseeing the management of vegetation along District 3 roadways. Prior to that, Andy spent over 14 years with an ecological restoration firm as a designer, ecological consultant, and project manager where he practiced the design and restoration of native ecosystems using native seeds and plants. During this time, he became very familiar with the native seed and plant industry. After serving in the US Army, he earned his Bachelor's of Landscape Architecture from the University of Illinois and is a Professional Landscape Architect. At the nursery, Andy is focused on determining which species to grow, obtaining foundation seed, planning production plot installations, sales, filling seed orders, and assists with production work (planting, maintenance, harvest, seed processing, etc.). He also oversees Quality Control of all final seed product.