Wright Foundation for Sustainability and Innovation
The Wright Foundation for Sustainability and Innovation (WFSI) exists to foster innovative sustainability initiatives that make a positive impact on our planet. WFSI wants to find solutions to the complex challenges facing our world today. The Foundation’s vision is to facilitate positive action toward sustainable and innovative solutions in agricultural and environmental sectors that reduce carbon footprints and minimize risk for our communities.
In 2022, WFSI announced 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. Project updates from three recipients are noted below from their 2022 work using their 2021 and/or 2022 grant funds.
Grantee Trees Forever has used funds to support three programs including Planting Hope, TreeKeepers, and Growing Futures.
Planting Hope aims to restore the tree canopy in derecho-affected areas. With additional funds from an anonymous donor, Planting Hope grants were awarded for tree planting in eight derecho-affected Iowa communities and for two public tree distributions. A total of 1,393 trees were planted with another 236 planned for spring 2023.
TreeKeepers form the core of Trees Forever’s volunteer operations. Through virtual training in spring and in-person fall training in
Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, Trees Forever prepared 114 new TreeKeepers in 2022. Over three evenings, TreeKeepers learned the essentials for tree planting and care and were inspired to become advocates for trees in their home communities and beyond. They also participated in a winter pruning workshop this past December to become more knowledgeable on the topic and to help with city-led pruning activities.
Growing Futures employs teens and provides them with beneficial professional development to prepare them for the workforce upon graduating high school. In 2022, Growing Futures programs in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids employed more than 40 local youth and planted more than 3,000 trees along street rights-of-way. Additionally, these crews completed more than 14,000 watering visits for trees in their care. Upkeep and wrapping of two vans and trailers was an estimated $13,792 in-kind donation on top of the equipment donation itself.
Friends of Des Moines Parks
Volunteers assisted the Friends of Des Moines Parks during their tree planting event in May. The project was funded by a grant from the Wright Foundation for Sustainability and Innovation. The event — aimed to help improve Des Moines’ tree canopy — took place at Easter Lake Park along the Easter Lake Spine Trail with the trees dedicated to the late John Harsch, a founding member of the foundation. With over 50 volunteers, including several of our own employees, 120+ trees were planted in no time!
Land Stewardship Project
Our 2022 grantee, Land Stewardship Project (LSP), had a packed season full of farmer-to-farmer soil health education events. LSP held 25 field days, workshops, and pasture walks on member farms between May and October, attended by more than 800 farmers interested in adopting and expanding regenerative practices on their land. This lineup included expert speakers Gabe Brown, Allen Williams of Understanding Ag, LLC – Experts in Regenerative Ag, and compost bioreactor pioneers Dr. David Johnson and Dr. Hui-Chun Su.