Identifying Noxious Weeds Through Fashion
UI Extension takes innovative approach to help stop the spread of invasive weeds.
Education and apparel design have joined forces at the University of Idaho to give the public smart new ways to identify invasive and noxious plant life.
And look really good doing it.
University of Idaho Extension educator Melissa Hamilton worked with Lori Wahl, an apparel, textiles and design instructor in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, to create a set of bandanas and scarves with patterns reflecting invasive weeds in Valley County.
Hamilton — who is based in Valley County and focuses on community development, agriculture and horticulture programs — wanted to combine the idea of telling stories through apparel with invasive weed patterns to help slow the spread of the weeds.
“There are 70 percent second homeowners in Valley County and when those homeowners are vacant these weeds have a lot of opportunities to establish themselves,” Hamilton said. “If they had more knowledge about how they needed to care for their property when they weren’t there they might take additional actions to make sure they were being good stewards of the land. This was a fun, visually appealing way to convey that information.”
Wahl turned the idea over to her senior portfolio-development class in 2016.
“A big part of my teaching philosophy is experiential learning, learning-based simulations — stimulating real client designer relationships and real product development scenarios so the students have a chance to practice what they learned in multiple courses simultaneously,” Wahl said.
By the end of the semester, the class had created a prototype of three bandanas and three scarves with designs resembling spotted knapweed, yellow toadflax and oxeye daisies — all invasive weeds found in Valley County and other locations in Idaho and the Pacific Northwest.
Hamilton and Wahl spent the last year getting the products on the shelf, including obtaining licensing, finding a wholesaler and determining product quality and fabric types. The 100 percent cotton broadcloth bandanas are sized 21-by-21 inches, and the 100 percent polyester twill scarves are sized 36-by-36 inches.
“It’s been a partnership between the different entities in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences,” Hamilton said. “It really is a project that’s solely in the college and it really shows how diverse this college is. I think sometimes we get branded as just agriculture but we’re a lot more than that, especially if you look into Extension and all of the individual programs we offer.”
Each scarf and bandana is accompanied by a hangtag, also created by the students, with information about the weed that each piece represents, as well as the title of the project, “Know the Land, Save the Land.”
Educate and Eradicate
Hamilton and Wahl hope the project will grow beyond its original local emphasis, and focus groups showed the potential for nationwide interest.
“I strongly believe that education is the easiest and most economical form of weed control,” Steve Anderson, Valley County weed superintendent.
“I strongly believe that education is the easiest and most economical form of weed control,” said Steve Anderson, Valley County weed superintendent. “Most people I deal with had no idea they were growing noxious weeds on their property; someone dug it up and replanted it thinking it was just a pretty flower that eventually filled in their flower garden, crept across the yard and now has jumped the road and has taken over the pasture. It's our job to educate and eradicate so future generations can enjoy our beautiful county and state.”
The bandanas and scarves are available for purchase at www.uidaho.edu/weedscarves. UI Extension also recently published the ninth edition of the Idaho’s Noxious Weeds publication, which can be found at http://bit.ly/2nFPhwA.
Article by Jean Parrella, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences