Five Organizations in the Midwest received grants for tree planting projects and improving soil health practices.

WFSI 2022 Grant Recipients

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – Wright Foundation for Sustainability and Innovation (WFSI) is pleased to announce the grantees for its second grant cycle, focused on improving the tree canopy and best regenerative agricultural management practice adoption in the Midwest. WFSI has awarded a total of $200,000 to five organizations in Iowa and Minnesota including: Friends of Des Moines Parks, Trees Forever, University of Northern Iowa Foundation, The Nature Conservancy and Land Stewardship Project.

“We identified five organizations committed to stewardship and sustainability that align with our vision to drive real, high-impact change for good,” says Scott Packard, WFSI chairman. “We could not be more excited to empower projects enhancing tree canopy restoration which increases natural habitats for birds and insects while improving air quality and stormwater improvements. Plus, support soil health programs for farmers adopting practices to rebuild organic matter in the soil, restore biodiversity, sequester carbon, and conserve and protect water.” 

The Friends of Des Moines Parks will use their $50,000 award to plant 100+ trees across four urban parks to replace urban tree canopy lost during the 2020 derecho, and address heat island abatement while adding a food forest to the park system. The parks include Evergreen Park, Cohen Park, Witmer Park and MacRae Park, specifically at the Bancroft Basin.

The $25,000 awarded to Trees Forever will go toward broadening their derecho-recovery granting program, Planting Hope, into a sustainable fund to support tree canopy restoration after storm events in Iowa and Illinois. Additionally, a portion will support Growing Futures, their teen workforce development and tree planting program currently serving Des Moines and Cedar Rapids.

$50,000 was awarded to the Green Iowa AmeriCorps program through the University of Northern Iowa Foundation to work with 22 partner organizations, including Trees Forever, K-12 school districts, County Conservation boards and others, to plant trees in urban, suburban, and rural communities throughout Iowa with the goal of strengthening the state’s tree canopy in underserved locations. Tree planting will be carried out by 120 AmeriCorps members in collaboration with volunteers with the goal of planting 1,500 trees in targeted communities. The program will focus on Iowa communities impacted by climate disasters, including flooding events, tornadoes and the 2020 derecho, and communities and neighborhoods that lack tree diversity and tree equity in public and right-of-way spaces.

Two organizations received the first awards for the John Harsch Regenerative Agriculture Grant, named after the late John Harsch, a founding board member and director of WFSI. 

The Nature Conservancy was awarded $50,000 to bring together local soil and water conservation districts with private crop consultants, agricultural retailers, and custom farm service businesses to provide soil health services to new farmers. The project will result in a new method to engage new producers with soil health, activate existing networks to be soil health advocates, and establish a system that sustains soil health practices at a scale well beyond the dependence on cost-share practices. Soil health data will be collected, and participants will be trained in low-cost, replicable soil health testing.

Land Stewardship Project will use the $25,000 award for their soil health program that was launched in 2016 supporting farmers throughout Minnesota and neighboring states to adopt farming practices that rebuild organic matter in the soil, restore biodiversity, sequester carbon, and conserve and protect water. Their approach combines direct education in regenerative practices, advocating for policy that incentivizes statewide and national adoption of these practices, and building a community around farmers driving the soil health movement on the local level.