From Patti Ragsdale, our founder and executive director:
Some of the people on my board of directors are people that inspired me. Sometimes you meet a person and you just think, this person is something. This person has something that is inspiring to people. And I think this person would make this mission accomplishable — not so impossible. Other people are people that I know have a desire to do this, that are inspired by our mission in some way. They aspire to our vision. Some people had some experience with a nonprofit. So for this first board of directors, I wanted it populated with people who knew me in some way, and had connected with me in some way, around the mission of why I do what I do. So the board is just really wonderful people that inspire me with what they do.
From Courtney Masterson:
It’s tough to point out a single moment that brought me and Patti into each other’s lives. The native plant community was quite small not so long ago. We all knew each other, or were just one chance interaction (in a prairie, no doubt) away from becoming friends. When I sought out like-minded folks to help lead native plant education events, Patti didn’t hesitate to step up. Our first project together was co-chairing the Kaw Valley Native Plant Coalition — an organization dedicated to protecting and promoting native plants and landscapes in the region.
To this day, Patti’s passion, curiosity, and kindness keep me engaged in this important work on the toughest days. Her determination and friendship strengthen me when I need a comrade in arms. Since we met, Happy Apple’s Farm has become the place to buy native plants and my own business, Native Lands, has started to take on larger, community-driven ecosystem restoration projects. Our work has allowed Patti and I (and our amazing partners) to stay in touch and support each other. We still share wonderful walks on the prairie when we sneak away from work. Botanical Belonging is the next step on our journey to bring people back to the plants, back to the land. I’m so grateful to continue to provide education to landowners and managers, city dwellers and country folk, young people and those young at heart with Patti and Brent, as well as this board. We have a lot of work to do!
From Connie Chapman:
My love for native plants has been gradually evolving over the past 20 years. My husband Mike and I purchased a small farm in Stilwell in 1995 from a woman who was born in the old 1915 farmhouse that was still standing at that time. The family raised milk cattle on the land, and had found ways to survive through the Depression selling their milk and cutting trees for heat. They also sold rocks from this rocky land for rock walls in Mission Hills in the 1930’s. While we loved the nature that was here at that time, the brome that had been planted for the cattle and the clearing of trees in the riparian area for pasture had adversely impacted the land. Osage Orange had taken over both the pastures and the woodland. Once we began to clear these nasty trees, we started to observe flowering plants that we had not seen before. And we began trying to identify them. Then we started to observe the bees and butterflies that we using them. We had caught the “bug.”
Now our life’s mission is to conserve this land and return it to as close to its natural state as we can. This is one of the goals of Botanical Belonging: to help people like us find ways to manage pieces of land like this. Patti has been an inspiration in tackling this goal. I have worked with her as a K-State Extension Master Naturalist at the Pollinator Prairie for going on four years now. Her wealth of knowledge is only exceeded by her great, contagious enthusiasm for native plants. I have learned so much from her and know many others who have as well. I believe that Botanical Belonging can have a great impact, not only on the people who participate and learn from it, but especially on the pollinators and other wildlife that will benefit as a result.
From Brent Ragsdale:
Patti is the love of the second half of my life. After my sons and I suffered two devastating losses of their mom Lisa in 2008, and then their sister Vivian in 2010, my luck finally turned late in that year when I got to know Patti at Hallmark Cards. We have a cute story of how we met, ask about it sometime when you visit Happy Apple’s Farm. While putting my life back together (before Patti), I signed up for a Food Not Lawns community course taught by Steve Mann. I was searching for a community to belong to and for some sense of meaning after becoming increasingly disheartened with “progress.” Maybe it was too many years of commuting alone in my car thinking this is crazy, this is crazy, or perhaps it came from learning too much about the trajectory of life on Earth and what I would plainly call human overshoot. You can ask about that later too (though I will be supremely surprised if you do)!
Anyway, Patti and I wanted something different than life in suburbia, mindlessly consuming more than our share of what’s left of the planet. Perhaps I wasn’t quite as clear about what I wanted as Patti but downsizing to a smaller house on a bigger property and then trying to model a low-energy and more self-sufficient lifestyle seem right to us both. For me, at first, it was just quitting the rat-race and trying to grow our own food. Later, I came to buy-in to Patti’s calling of promoting native plants. It seems to me that sometime in the past, humans got the false notion that we are not part of nature. In my opinion, this will likely be our undoing and we will probably end a lot more species of flora and fauna than we already have in the process. Full disclosure, I’m a Gloomer. Nevertheless, and though it may be quixotic, I can think of nothing nobler than propagating the love and knowledge of native plants. Period. Full stop. Disclosure: I know practically nothing about native plants, but I know Patti and I know a good thing when I see it and she’s all of that and more.
From Teri Burchett:
I met Patti when purchasing native plants. We moved to Leavenworth County from south Overland Park in 2017. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I realized that there was a native plant vendor within two miles of us. (I am originally from Jefferson City, MO, so I will always purchase some plants from Missouri Wildflowers Nursery — their catalog is absolutely amazing.) My involvement with Botanical Belonging is because I have spreadsheet experience, and some native plant knowledge. I’m still learning, and I’m glad for that.
I’m excited about the organization because I empathize with the passion. We are currently trying to establish 1.2 acres of our lot to our own little Peace Prairie. We’ve had awesome help (Courtney, Patti) during this first transition year. The next few years are going to be painful, as it gets established. But, it can’t be worse than the plethora of dandelions we had… right? We live in a subdivision, so I’m trying to be respectful of neighbors. By the way, the term Peace Prairie includes a nod to Chief Tonganoxie. I’ve read that he was a peaceful Chief. It is my understanding that he is the only Chief that a town is named after. All the other names related to Indigenous people were for tribes. My helpful husband Craig likes the peace sign, so the term Peace Prairie just seems fitting.
From Anna Funk:
When I moved to Kansas City in January of 2021, I had one requirement for my new home: A yard big enough to garden. My husband and I moved to 0.26 acres in the northland and started tearing up sod. I had a Ph.D. in plant ecology under my belt, and had studied prairie restorations from the scientific side, but hadn’t had the chance to get to know the plants the way I had always wanted to. (Nor had I ever had much success as a gardener.)
An acquaintance had told me Happy Apple’s Farm was a must-visit for a native plant fan. As I started mapping out my extremely (over-)eager garden plans that February, I realized I had no sense of timing, pricing, availability, or… how to plant a garden. I took a chance and filled out the contact form on the Happy Apple’s website. Patti replied: “What a great thing you’re doing! I’m excited to help in any way I can.” And that was that.
A sense of botanical belonging is exactly what my work in prairies as an academic scientist had been missing. Today, I do science and nature writing, editing, and marketing. I’ve found it much more rewarding to tell stories of people and plants than to analyze data about them. Patti’s story is an exceptional one, and so is the story of our native plants. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to help share these stories with our community.