In the spring and summer of 2022, the “next generation” of Americana’s founding family participated in the second year of a program designed to introduce them to Americana’s mission, program areas, and priorities. The Next Gen cohort includes Jessie Harper, Kyle Harper, Ashley Thomas, Jennifer Thomas, and Nathan Thomas, all of whom are great-grandchildren of Adolph and Ginger Meyer, Americana’s founders.
The second year of Americana’s Next Gen program consisted of a small grants program focused on Americana’s natural resources program area. The Board of Trustees allocated $25,000 of Americana’s 2022 grantmaking budget to the program and tasked the Next Gen to recommend grant awards to organizations whose missions are aligned with the Meyer’s interest in preserving land and open spaces in Michigan. Americana has expressed the Meyer’s vision for land and natural resources preservation as follows:
The Americana Foundation envisions rural and urban landscapes in Michigan where each individual, every family and the entire community is deeply connected to the food system, land, and nature; where agricultural producers are prosperous and focused on sustainability; where the natural environment is healthy, diversified and beautiful with clean water, air, and soil; where the character of the land and its scenic features are preserved and respected; and where agriculture and natural resources support public health, diverse business opportunities and livable communities for all.
The Next Gen cohort expressed particular interest in projects that promote the conservation and stewardship of land specifically for the purpose of protecting and/or restoring habitat.
The Next Gen received five applications for Next Gen grants and recommended three for the Board’s approval:
- Leelanau Conservancy – Whaleback Restoration ($10,000): With this grant, the Leelanau Conservancy will remove between four and 7.5 acres of invasive wineberry from the Whaleback Natural Area with the help of goats. The Conservancy will remove the wineberry using goats because they naturally remove plant biomass and eliminate the possibility that the plants will resprout if left in a habitat. After the wineberry is removed, the Conservancy will seed the cleared land with native seeds. The Whaleback Natural Area is one of Northern Michigan’s most iconic landscapes and is one of the Conservancy’s most popular natural areas. Located near Leland, MI, the area includes 40 acres of mature oaks and hemlocks and is home to scarlet tanagers, blackthroated blue warblers, American redstarts, and bald eagles. More information about the Whaleback Natural Area is available on the Conservancy’s website.
- Six Rivers Land Conservancy – Sutherland Nature Sanctuary ($10,000): Six Rivers will use this grant to restore four acres of wet meadow at the Sutherland Nature Sanctuary in Metamora, MI. The southern wet meadow at Sutherland is home to many species that cannot be found in other publicly accessible parts of the preserve, including yellow lady’s slipper. Woody shrubs have encroached on the southern wet meadow and have reduced habitat available to species dependent on wet meadow ecosystems. Six Rivers will use a forestry mower to clear away the woody shrubs to permit greater infiltration of sunlight, which will enable the meadow to support a greater diversity of species. Six Rivers also will use the grant to repair a pavilion and other infrastructure at the preserve. More information about the Sutherland Nature Sanctuary is available on Six Rivers’ website.
- National Wildlife Federation – D-LEEP Native Plant and Vegetable Program ($5,000): The Detroit Leadership and Environmental Education Program (D-LEEP) is an afterschool program for high school students in Detroit that cultivates relationship with nature through outdoor experience, ecological education, and action. During the COVID pandemic, D-LEEP provided education, training, and materials to student participants so that they could build raised vegetable beds and plant and maintain vegetable gardens at their homes. The Next Gen recommended this grant to support the expansion of D-LEEP from vegetable gardening to creating pollinator gardens, and the Board of Trustees decided to match the Next Gen’s recommendation with an additional $5,000 grant. Information about D-LEEP is available here.
Americana is grateful to the organizations who participated in the Next Gen grantmaking program and to the members of the Next Gen cohort for their enthusiasm, engagement, and commitment to the Foundation and its mission.