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Bill Neiman had an epiphany in ...
Bill Neiman had an epiphany in 1989: he realized for certain that he was bad for the environment.
That particular insight had been developing over the preceding decade due to a variety of factors based on Neiman's professional work, his
residency in one of the fastest developing areas of the country, his
serendipitous association with environmental visionaries, his
own considerable powers of observation and deductive reasoning, and nature itself.
lawn care business - which he
had started as a teenager with a borrowed shovel, rake and lawnmower, and which he
had worked hard to grow into a successful landscape construction/irrigation system installation company with 45 employees - was doing well.
Following conventional practices of the '70s and '80s, Neiman
had built his
livelihood around installing non-native landscapes in the rapidly growing Dallas/Ft.
Worth metroplex, putting in irrigation systems to keep them hydrated, spraying them with chemical fertilizers to make them grow, applying herbicides to ensure they were weed-free and regularly dousing them with pesticides to keep the bugs away.
had always enjoyed the work, taking satisfaction in coming in behind bulldozers and establishing people's yards with live plants and lush, green lawns.
watched more and more of the Blackland Prairie succumb to those selfsame bulldozers, however, Neiman
began to suspect that his
business was doing well for all the wrong reasons.
In those days, Neiman
family lived in Flower Mound, which is now considered a suburb of Dallas but which at that time was still a small town.
became involved in that effort and was greatly influenced by it; he
would later go on to serve as the Mound Foundation's
Mother Nature also had a hand in Neiman's evolution to conservationist.
"Beginning in the early 1980s, a series of climate events conspired to make me start thinking about what I was doing.
North Texas experienced the worst drought in decades, the worst freeze in a hundred years, and then two years of back-to-back flooding.
The landscapes that I had spent so much time installing and maintaining began to die," recalled Neiman
"I noticed, though, that native plants in the area not only survived - they could handle whatever nature threw at them and continued to do just fine.
I began to see that I was part of the problem."
In 1987, Neiman
entered into a 10-year contract with IBM
to undertake the ecological restoration of its 1,600-acre corporate land bank located at The Colony, another Dallas suburb.
For years, the site had been farmland dedicated to producing cotton and maize in the conventional, non-organic manner.
Fortuitously, IBM's Vice-President of Real Estate Development at the time also happened to be the National Secretary of the Audubon Society, and he was, as well, a man with a vision.
wanted to make the site a model of corporate land stewardship and return it to its original state as a native grassland prairie.
The process of reclaiming an area so large was a daunting endeavor, but Neiman
kept at it.
began to learn about native grass seeds and even developed tools to safely harvest them for reseeding.
The more he
worked, the more he
observed and learned of nature's ways, watching native grasses and forbs regain their foothold in what once had been part of a vast prairie that stretched from Canada to Mexico.
By the time the contract finished, Neiman
had a profound appreciation for the resilience of native plants and for working with nature instead of against it.
experience and understanding grew, he
became increasingly concerned about the rapid loss not only of his
beloved Blackland Prairie, but also of open space in general all over Texas and the plants native to those areas.
still had his
landscaping company, and although it had evolved to include more restoration work, he
wanted to do more to help with conservation efforts.
In 1990, he
closed the business.
An epiphany - the sudden, deep comprehension of something - is often described as occurring when a person has "found the last piece of the puzzle and now sees the whole picture.
, the last piece of the puzzle was a tiny one indeed: seeds.
"The power of seeds kept growing within my mind," explained Neiman
"I want to provide alternatives for people who would actually like to do something about their environment," said Neiman
In 1995, Neiman
family to the western edge of the Texas Hill Country, to a place on the Llano River near Junction.
There he established Native American Seed, a company dedicated to selling native grass and wildflower seeds to the public, and Neiman Environments, a large-scale restoration and development consulting service aimed at helping those with properties over 40 acres in size develop an ecologically sound approach to their landscapes.
still spends a lot of time harvesting seeds, perfecting the equipment he
uses to do so and sharing with anyone who'll listen his
experience and concerns about the rapid disappearance of open spaces and their native vegetation.
When asked if he
sometimes feels like the little Dutch boy with his
finger in the dike, Neiman
laughed and said, "Well, sometimes maybe, but I am a big believer in the power of one.
And I have a lot of faith in seeds."
"The answers were known by the Native people," he
preaching into practice and his
is a most persuasive voice for change.
If more of us could heed his
wakeup call to look at our landscapes from a different perspective, we might all have an epiphany of our own.
City of Dripping Springs - Gateway to the Hill Country
President, Native American Seed
Bill Neiman is an environmental landscaper and his Native American Seed is the principal supplier of
native wildflower and grass seeds in Texas, much of it used in the highway-beautification programs of the
Texas Department of Transportation
The company also provides consulting services for prairie-restoration
An advocate of the use of native species of vegetation, Neiman
speaks regularly to school classes and adult
groups in his
ongoing effort to educate the public about ecologically-sensitive land management.
-- who believes we are at a serious environmental and land use crossroads -- points out that we
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Native American Seed - The Gardener's Corner
Author Bill Neiman says, "I like to watch nature and see how I can fit in.
Native American Seed - About Bill Neiman
first company, Neiman Environments Landscape Construction Company
, in 1974 when he
was nineteen years old.
borrowed a shovel, a rake, and lawn mower and advertised in the local garbage collector's monthly billings offering "total outdoor care.
says, "In today's economic realities, the only sensible approach to effective land management is with the use of native species for vegetation.
Bill Neiman annually leads fifth grade student field trips to the Foundation.
continues the educational concepts of this project through a working grant with the Rainwater Foundation of Fort Worth, Texas