this photo taken on Dec. 14, 2014, Marti and Ron
Martin stand on the winter-time prairie that they
created around their home in rural Milton, Wis.. More
than 20 years ago, the Martins turned a love of nature
into one of the area's first land restoration
Big bluestem and Indian grass blow peacefully in the winter
wind outside the home of Ron and Marti Martin.
couple planted their flourishing prairie the day before
Christmas 2003 on Charley Bluff Road.
built their home on the almost six-acre spot.
Martins, no landscape is complete without the ever-changing
color and character of native grasses and other plants, The
Janesville Gazette (http://bit.ly/1uQO2EX
know Ron and Marti as the owners of Midwest Prairies. Now
they are entering a new chapter.
this fall, they retired and sold the business to Carl
Korfmacher, who shares their passion for healing the land.
Martins leave a lasting legacy.
started the business in 1993, when native
prairie-restoration companies were few. For more than two
decades, they worked with area landowners to restore
thousands of acres into prairies and wildlife habitat.
business had a humble start.
got laid off as an electrician at a canning plant, he needed
to find new work. Through his sons Roger and John, he met Al
Haller, a naturalist who lived on the shores of Lake
connected Ron with his daughter and son-in-law, Penny and
Gary Shackelford, who had just bought 380 acres in the town
Shackelfords were looking for someone to tackle the
labor-intensive job of killing invasive buckthorn, which was
shading out oak seedlings in a 130-acre woods.
said he would work for us," Penny recalls. "From
the moment he started, he was a cut above. He had a
background as a farmer, so he knew how to run the equipment,
and he kept meticulous records."
on the job.
building the bicycle while riding it," he explains.
"I was learning how nature works."
invested in equipment, took a class at The Nature
Conservancy to pick up skills for prescribed burning and
volunteered with the state Department of Natural Resources
to get more experience. Excited about working outdoors, he
learned more skills for restoring natural plant communities
a few credits short of a business degree_set up a database
of flowers and grasses to help Ron design seed mixes. She
took over the bookkeeping and office work.
landowners came to them for help. The Martins eagerly showed
them how to live softer on the planet without giving up
anything but their lawn mowers.
a tall grass prairie for Larry Scheunemann of Whitewater in
did a really good job," Larry said. "Through the
years, we have done burns and cuttings to keep it in good
want to do the right thing for their land, Ron said.
they don't know where to begin, or they have misconceptions
about land and wildlife management," he explained.
"All they need is help to get started."
Marti say that selling Midwest Prairies is bittersweet.
of our clients have become dear friends," Ron said.
they hope to move to Colorado. They also plan to volunteer
in state and national parks.
will not forget the prairies they nurtured in Wisconsin.
are a lot like children," Ron said. "They develop
a character of their own influenced by the surrounding
environment. I want to come back and visit them all to see
how they grow up."