How to Spread HOPE in 2022 via Native Plants

How to Spread HOPE in 2022 via Native Plants

This is a guest blog post from Jared Goodykoontz, a local School Naturalist who is REALLY pumped about restoring ecosystems with native plants. Jared has started an organization called Team HOPE 2022: Helping Ohioans Plant Ecosystems, and I'm proud to help Jared with this project in any way that I can. 

"Peent!"... that's the sound of a Timberdoodle's courtship call. I get to hear this sound every winter in my prairie. Spring sounds like the "tsip-tsip-tsip-tseree" of my local song sparrows at the prairie's edge. Summer sounds like "buzzzzzz" (I'll let you guess who that is), and autumn sounds like a symphony of clicks and chirps as mature grasshoppers and katydids sing the land to sleep.

It's these sounds, along with the sights and smells (I love a windy day in a patch of grey-headed coneflower and native sunflowers!) that made me fall in love with native plants. The evidence that they're helping the wildlife thrive is right there for your ears to hear and your eyes to see!

So, wait, who's writing this blog post? Oh, it's me: Jared Goodykoontz, a local School Naturalist who is REALLY pumped about restoring ecosystems with native plants... or as I like to put it: throw wildlife parties with plant invitations!

As a Columbus-based School Naturalist (for the Balanced Family Academy family of schools), I am immensely blessed to get to do weekly nature classes with 1 to 6-year-olds. We dive into our senses, wildlife tracking, animal movement and emotions, bird language, and native plants... it's a blast! (You can see more of what I do at or on instagram @jaredthenatureguy.)

Why Native Plants?

Like I've said, I've learned that native plants are the BEST (and easiest) way to help our wildlife (and ourselves) NOW! I view native plants as party invitations: each plant "invites" specific animal brothers and sisters to come around. This is how I frame native plants for my 4 to 6-year-olds, and they seem to get it. Many of them get excited about throwing an "animal party" in their yard! (And, actually, I'm working on a children's book about this now!)

Introducing Team HOPE 2022

My inspiration for starting Team HOPE 2022 was: New Year's Eve we rushed my youngest daughter Savannah to Children's because she was showing signs of a sudden and life-threatening illness. After lots of prayer and great doctor work, we left that evening with a recovering daughter and hope for 2022. That night I was having trouble sleeping (probably the adrenaline) and the acronym "Helping Ohioans Plant Ecosystems" just sort of popped into my head. So the next day I put out a vision on some various Facebook groups and wow, people responded. I've been consistently delighted by the enthusiasm and generosity of native plant people... they're the best. The goal is to gather as many native plant people and organizations together to cooperatively and strategically give away as many plants as possible this year. I'm hoping to eliminate as many obstacles as possible for people to give, and for people to plant.

My vision is for Team HOPE 2022 giveaway boxes to be in cafes, libraries, churches, small businesses etc. all over Ohio. From now until the end of March, we will be focused on seed collecting, packaging, and giving. Beginning in April, we will switch to plant growing, labeling, and giving.

My long-term stretch goal would be to have a wonderful successful year in 2022, and then continue the effort for 2023 and even create a model that other states could use (perhaps changing their name to "Helping Our State Plant Ecosystems".) I can even see teaming up with Homegrown National Park and the national Wild Ones.

How to Get Involved

Some logistics: I am a husband, dad of two, landowner, etc. etc. and very much do NOT want to be the "do-everything-guy" for this. I really want to emphasize the "team" aspect and use our collective minds and influence to accomplish more than I ever could on my own. I also don't want to get tangled up in taxes (so I am not accepting direct financial donations), and I do not want to harm any native plant businesses (so I am not asking for discounts or donations from any nurseries or seed suppliers.)

Instead, I'm hoping to inspire as many native plant people as possible to grow plugs for spring giveaways. I've also looked into teaming up with local T-shirt companies to sell shirts with our logo (designed by Return to Sender Paper Co.) and use profits to order seeds for us directly. Being an election year, perhaps the HOPE 2022 name would be particularly popular? I also want to empower Team HOPE 2022 Heroes to come up with innovative ways to fundraise for seeds on their own.

I'm so excited about the momentum we're already seeing for this movement, and I can't wait to see the first giveaway box in public! Want to get involved and become a Team HOPE Hero? Find us on Facebook/Instagram @ohiohope2022. We look forward to meeting you!

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