The Wildflower Project (TWP) began in 2014 as an idea in garden journal, penned by Matt Wildenauer, then a senior studying horticulture at the University of Minnesota. It was a simple concept: plant flowers to beautify his neighborhood. An avid gardener with an eye for design, he didn’t have to look far to find places where flowers could boost aesthetics. They’re everywhere in his neighborhood of South St. Anthony Park, a diverse community nestled along two major highways in between the downtowns of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Green space has become scarce, but Matt believed with a handful of seed, he could bring some back.
In the spring of 2015, Matt persuaded two of his college friends, Ean Koerner and Matthew Peterson, to discuss the project’s potential. The conversation transitioned to honeybees and the environmental challenges they were facing and learned pollinators were dying at alarming rates, partly due to poor nutrition. In urban neighborhoods like South St. Anthony Park, concrete, development and pollution have consumed large areas of natural habitat, leaving behind barren food deserts for hungry pollinators.
What started as a project about beautifying communities quickly expanded into a web of environmental and community stewardship possibilities. TWP met weekly on ‘Wildflower Wednesdays’ and discussed possible gardens or partnerships. These opportunities appeared in various ways, but our message of planting with a purpose was widely accepted by members of the community.
Throughout 2015, TWP explored all kinds of opportunities that allowed us to create wildflower gardens. We made mistakes, learned lessons, refined our focus and continued growing. Our team motto became “It starts with a seed.” It’s a continuous reminder that The Wildflower Project could have tremendous potential, but healthy growth takes patience and requires careful attention.
On June 9, 2016, after a year of research and outreach, The Wildflower Project officially formalized as nonprofit corporation in the state of Minnesota. Over the next 18 months, the TWP network of partners and opportunities expanded, and so did the team. TWP convened its first Board of Directors meeting on July 19, 2017.
On December 28, 2017, TWP entered into a fiscal sponsorship agreement with Propel Nonprofits, enabling TWP to function as a 501(c)(3) organization.