Jacie Jensen

Jacie Jensen has been collecting Palouse wildflower seeds since 2004. She and her husband Wayne also grow wheat on the Palouse.

Jacie Jensen

Why did you start collecting wildflower seeds?
We started collecting seeds off of Paradise Ridge to start doing seed expansion. We were looking for other crops that we could produce, and we just thought, if we can grow these things on the ridge without even trying, what if we really put an effort into it? Can we reproduce these, keep the genetics as similar as possible for others to be able to plant these in their own back yards?

So we collected the seeds of Paradise Ridge, with the help of the Palouse Prairie foundation. We couldn’t have done it without their help. They helped us identify everything that was up there; they helped us collect the first year and showed us when to collect each species, what species were the best ones for us to start with; and then they helped us plant them into plugs.

We had them in a greenhouse over the winter, and then they volunteered and helped us put them into the seed expansion plot. So right now, we have ten different species in the plot, and we’ve collected more.

So we now have enough seed with at least three species, including the one we were collecting today, that we will expand to five acre plots; each one will be five acres and off of that, that’s enough to really get the seed on the market.

Will people who purchase these wildflowers have to do much work to maintain them?
We want to make sure that the plants remain drought tolerant, that they don’t need fertilizer, and you can just put them into your land, and they should be able to establish themselves without a lot of care. It takes, we figure, three years to really get native plants and grasses established.

The first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps, and the third year it leaps.

So the first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps, and the third year it leaps. And it takes a lot of maintenance those first three years, but once that is done, they can out-compete the weeds and try to stay in balance with everything else.

So, you've received a lot of assistance on this project?
We’re really fortunate to have the Palouse Prairie Foundation. They’ve been wonderful. Many of the people in the Palouse Prairie Foundation are either landowners who have an appreciation and have Palouse Prairie remnant on their own land and want to learn more, or also people connected with the two universities who are botanists and researchers and really appreciate plants and understand how special this region is with this Palouse Prairie.

It’s a very diverse plant community compared to other prairies where it has a higher number of forbs or wild flowers than other prairies do.

How does the Palouse prairie differ from other prairies in the country?
This prairie is unique compared to the prairies in the midwest. They have 80% grasses and 20% wildflowers. The Palouse prairie is different in that 40% are wildflowers and 60% are grasses, with three main grasses, Idaho fescue, blue bunch wheat grass and sandburg blue grass.

As Wayne says, it blooms from snow bank to snow bank. There's something always blooming.

Jacie Jensen kneeling with a hoe in her hand

What are your hopes and dreams for the Palouse?
There are changes happening everywhere, and when you go north of here, up to the Coeur d’Alene- Sandpoint area, you see the growth, or you go south to McCall and Cascade and Boise you see the growth. New people are coming in to be landowners in Idaho. So my hope and my dreams are that in ten years the landowners of Idaho, whether the new ones or those who have been here for generations, will learn to appreciate the land by using it; but also realize that, with the freedom to purchase land in Idaho, comes the responsibility to be good stewards and to care for the land.

I use the analogy of being an owner of a new pet,whether it’s a puppy or a kitten. It’s something that is long term, and you have to nurture that relationship over the long term. You can’t just do it for the short term because it was fun, hang onto that land or that pet and then just ignore it. If you’re going to purchase it, use it, and take care of it for the long term.

One of the positive things is that a lot of the people who do want to have a piece of the country come into it for the right reason. And maybe what we all need to do who live out in the country is to make sure that someone provides the services and the supplies to help them do a good job, and make them aware that what you have is pretty special, and take care of it. And this is what we've learned.

For more information about the Jensen family, check out our 2001 OUTDOOR IDAHO program, Down on the Farm.

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