About Us

The mission of the West Michigan Open Yards program is to connect individual “host” landowners working to conserve their landscape for wildlife with folks interested in doing the same. We have witnessed the power of on-site mentoring discussions, and are excited to provide this tool to help support the nationwide movement to foster more interesting, sustainable and beautiful landscapes for both wildlife and people.

The Open Yards program recognizes the tremendous diversity of habitat landscapes and their owners and that each space looks different from week to week and month to month. No single day event can capture multiple seasons of beauty, inspiration and learning; some yards will be at their peak while others past or not yet reached, and all will look different on a different day. Our hosts’ availability dates reflect their own unique landscape and when they feel it is best seen.

Columbine and Golden Alexanders by Mitch Leachman

Open Yards also knows there are amazing habitat landscapes across our wide region, from Alaska to Allendale and Cedar Springs to Cutlerville. A single day event makes it nearly impossible to showcase places so widely distributed. Instead, use our search engine to find host landscapes right where you are or where you will be on a particular date. As the program grows, we are confident more and more of the communities throughout the region will be represented with Open Yards.

Should you be interested in sharing your own landscape and knowledge by being a site host, simply complete our Landowner Interest Survey, and we will be in touch to discuss next steps.

The West Michigan Open Yards program is built upon the St. Louis Open Yards program operated in Missouri in 2022. That program would have not been possible without the support of a small and very dedicated committee of volunteers and fellow naturescaping enthusiasts. West Michigan Open Yards is in their debt:

  • Kathy Baird, Illinois Master Naturalists
  • Karen Giovanoni, Eastern Missouri Beekeepers Association
  • Ellen Hartz, Missouri Botanical Garden Litzsinger Road Ecology Center
  • Sarah Heitfeld-Schroeder, Wild Ones St. Charles Area Chapter

West Michigan Open Yards is owned by the Kent Conservation District. All revenue is first used to cover program expenses. All remaining proceeds will be used by the District to further their programs and services in support of soil, water and habitat conservation.

Mitch Leachman is the Open Yards coordinator. Prior to moving to West Michigan in 2023, he co-founded and coordinated the St. Louis Audubon Society’s Bring Conservation Home program from 2012 until early 2021. During his tenure, the BCH program delivered on-site native landscaping consultations to over 1,400 landowners with the collective potential of creating over 600 acres of wildlife habitat. Mitch also coordinated over 100 volunteer stewardship events in the St. Louis, Missouri region that engaged nearly 4,500 volunteers to restore Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas by removing invasive plants, planting trees, and cleaning up watersheds. He has also presented over 150 programs, classes and seminars on native plants and gardening for wildlife.