Community members help non-profit find new plot for May plant sale

Local News

URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — For Sarah Livesay, Executive Director of the Grand Prairie Friends (GPF) conservation land trust, losing their longstanding venue at the Lincoln Square Mall for their Annual Native Plant Sale this year was “a terrible loss.”

However, community members have helped the non-profit turn over a new leaf in putting on their event this year.

Livesay said because of the COVID-19 situation, they quickly had to put a new strategy into place, and their volunteers stepped up to the plate.

“For the last 20 years,” Livesay said, “GPF has hosted the widely-popular Annual Native Plant sale at Lincoln Square Mall — selling over 5,000 plants in about 4 hours, each year! This is the largest public fundraiser for the organization annually.”

Yet, losing out on the funding was just one of the problems the GPF faced with continuing their plant sale. Livesay said the GPF mission is to “preserve, restore and teach others about important local conservation.

“By sending out over 5,000 native plants into the local community each year, they were fulfilling their mission and creating a more eco-friendly Champaign County (and beyond).”

According to Livesay, they also lost access to their usual greenhouse facility where they nurse their plants in. Thankfully, Urbana’s Bill Bagby came through with a solution.

“As the past owner of Tiny Sprouts Organic Farm in Urbana, Bill offered his rural-Urbana farm for GPF to raise 6,000 native grasses, wildflowers and more.”

With a new plot for their seedlings to grow in, GPF only had one more problem to overcome: how would they sell thousands of plants without a large gathering space?

“Volunteer Ryan Boske-Cox stepped in and offered to create a beautiful online store for GPF,” Livesay said. “The sale was promoted though online and social media outlets and within one week, GPF has now sold over 5,000 plants!”

She also said that the fact that “thousands of healthy native plants will be going to homes in the area is the biggest success.”

Their new online storefront went live April 20. Livesay said in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon they still had about 1,000 plants left for sale.

Click here to view their online store.

“I can’t think of a more perfect time for people to be outdoors,” she said. “The most exciting thing for me is that scientific research is showing us how vital it is for us to be outdoors.”

Livesay added the Unversity of Illinois Landscape and Human Health Laboratory did a study on how being outdoors can help people reduce their levels of cortisol — that’s the body’s main stress hormone.

Livesay said gardening and working with plants “is the perfect activity to social distance yourself with. The weather is allowing us too.

“We really are in a perfect situation to be planting, getting outdoors and our hands into the soil.”

Governor Pritzker announced Thursday that the stay-at-home order would be extended for another month, but some stores — including gardening centers — would be allowed to reopen May 1 as essential businesses.

Grand Prairie Friends Annual Native Plant Sale

Pickup to be held 2:30-6:00 p.m. at 2314 N. High Cross Rd., Urbana.
• Wednesday, May 13 — Last names beginning with A-F.
• Thursday, May 14 — Last names beginning with G-N.
• Friday, May 15 — Last names beginning with O-Z.

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