This letter is to update everyone on the current status of The Living Landscape Function Calculator being developed by Environmental Metrics Unlimited (EMU).
I met with my advisor, Tivoni Devor of Urban Affairs Coalition (UAC) on Friday May 18, 2018. The timeline we were under with UAC was to have a six month fundraising period to promote the idea of the function calculator, raise money and build support.
We had set an initial goal of $15,000 dollars by May 13, 2018. We were able to raise $2600, with pledges of support from sponsors of an additional $2500.
Even though this is short of the financial goal, we were able to find support for the project, and develop interest in the Horticulture community. The financial goal was principally to ensure we could raise enough money to continue the project, which we did. UAC feels we have shown sufficient organizational ability and manifested interest by the community to continue our efforts.
To recap the project:
The long term goal is to develop a metric database, with metric values for each plant in 21 categories as laid out in the Living Landscape.
In my conversations with various parts of the industry I have found universal interest in developing a database of this type. What I have also found is that it is difficult for people to become engaged because there is nothing for them to see, work with, or use.
The current idea that I have suggested to some of our development partners is to launch a binary version of the database. This was suggested by Amy Highland at Mt. Cuba Center. The table as it was published is basically a yes/no table. Either a plant is a winter source of food or it is not. This easily converts to a zero or one value.
I have already prepared a version of the table with this data. The next step would be to get an estimate from a web developer for the cost of putting this version online. We could also use this as an information/promotional vehicle, offering a video explaining the upcoming advancements in the database, and how it can be used.
We could start by putting the database up on the EMU website, or make it available to our two current sponsors, North Creek Nursery and Cavano’s Nursery. We could charge a onetime join up fee to use the database as a fundraising stream. If other growers would like to link to the site then they could also contribute toward the development of the table.
We are also now prepared to apply for grants, which generally have a longer timeline to develop.
We are also going to launch something along the lines of a GoFundMe campaign, with specific short-term goals, such as a dedicated laptop for EMU.
1) Confer with Doug Tallamy, Rick Darke and the publisher, Timber press, to build consensus for the project going forward. I spoke with Doug on 5/25/2018, he approves of the binary database concept, and suggested we expand to include the other five databases to cover the entire US.
2) Confer with our principle industry supporters, Cavano’s Nursery and North Creek Nursery, as to their input for the next step. Specifically, do they support the concept of the binary version? Spoke with Steve Castorani on 6/4/2018, North Creek is supportive of the binary version and will discuss it with their website developers Clarity Connect.
3) Contract with a web developer to create the online database and website, and get a time and cost estimate.
4) Secure funds for the release of the binary version.
5) Develop a strategic plan for short and long term funding. Including grants, such as HRI and other sources.
Taylor Pilker of Cavano’s wrote a letter of support for the function calculator that reads in part: “A few years ago a trend began in the use of native plants leading to many questions from our landscape customers; now those questions are not as much of origin but what does a plant do? The designers know native plants work. But why do they work and how do I show my customer how they work. The calculator provides a tool for solving that problem.”
There are many developing databases online to aid in the selection of native plants. Steve Castorani reports that he, “recently had a meeting with NWF and they are in the final phase of putting together a robust website for a native plant finder. They are well on the way. Audubon is working on a similar format.”
Clearly there is broad interest and need for a comprehensive and robust database that would provide not only appropriate native plants by zip code, but also information of function, adaptability to site conditions, and plant community relationships, among many other vital characteristics. As Doug Tallamy has said, the Living Landscape Function Calculator will be a game changer for the Horticulture industry, as well as educational, governmental and homeowner applications.
We thank everyone who has contributed funds, ideas, guidance and support to this project. We are now on our way to the development, publishing and promotional phase of this exciting project. I look forward to collaborating with all of you, and to expanding our circle ever further.
Executive Director; Environmental Metrics Unlimited May 28 - June 4, 2018