Kids, employees dig in to help bees, butterflies at Great River Energy

Kids from SustainER helped Great River Energy plant the first of 11,000 prairie plugs.

Today approximately 20 people, including kids from Elk River’s SustainER program, planted the first of nearly 11,000 starter plants that will be planted on Great River Energy’s campus on Highway 10 in Elk River. Their hard work was part of a celebration of a 9-acre prairie planting that will re-establish the native habitat that pollinators like bees and butterflies need to survive.

The celebration comes during National Pollinator Week and after the 9-acre plot of land was recently seeded with a cover crop by Minnesota Native Landscapes, the planting vendor for the project.

The project is being developed by Great River Energy together with Elk River Energy City and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), as it is along one of Minnesota’s most heavily travelled highways.

“Great River Energy has been re-establishing native habitat for years at many of our facilities. We lead by example, and this time we chose a highly-visible location along Highway 10, where approximately 27,000 Minnesotans drive by every day,” said Kandace Olsen, Great River Energy vice president and chief culture officer. “We feel this location is an excellent opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of native habitat and our commitment to sustainability.”

Kids from SustainER share that commitment to sustainability, and three of them participated in today’s planting.

“SustainER is a youth group coordinated by the City of Elk River for students interested in promoting environmental sustainability, so GRE’s pollinator planting event fits in nicely with our objectives,” said Eric Hoskins, co-president of SustainER. “Participating in today’s event was a fun way to support our community and GRE’s commitment to re-establishing native habitats. We look forward to seeing the plants grow over the next several months.”

The project began last year with a lawn treatment and spraying last August. Since then, the lawn has been prepped and seeded with a cover crop of oats, rye and grasses.

Bre (far left) from Minnesota Native Landscapes demonstrates how to plant the plugs to the employees, SustainER kids and City of Elk River administrators.

“Minnesota Native Landscapes is thrilled to partner with forward-thinking organizations like Great River Energy on creating pollinator-friendly habitat,” said Bre Bauerly, outreach coordinator for Minnesota Native Landscapes. “This conversion of traditional turf lawn to diverse pollinator prairie is creating extremely valuable habitat in an urban setting. The new planting area will provide food for adult bumble bees and native moths, host plants for monarch butterflies, and shelter for pollinators and songbirds alike.”

Great River Energy, Elk River Energy City and MnDOT all have made commitments to re-establishing native prairie.

Over the years, Great River Energy has re-established approximately 200 acres of native habitat at its facilities.

Last year MnDOT joined five other state departments of transportation and the Federal Highway Administration in an agreement to improve pollinator habitat along Interstate 35, a key migratory corridor for monarch butterflies.

Elk River’s Energy City plan includes a goal of seeing 100 acres of new native plantings in the city by 2024.

“The City of Elk River, as Energy City, is excited to showcase the success of Great River Energy’s native planting area,” Amanda Bednar, Elk River city’s environmental coordinator. “This project is a great start toward reaching our goal. We hope it can serve as a demonstration of the benefits these plants will provide to pollinators.”

For more information about this project, visit