Our Beginnings

Applied Ecological Services and Taylor Creek Restoration Nurseries were born in the late 1970s when founder Steve Apfelbaum partnered with his mentor Dr. Jim Ludwig to begin the experiment that became the successful reclamation of the Jackson County Iron Mine.

Apfelbaum and Ludwig collected native prairie seed in the wild to re-vegetate the waste rock and tailings piles because, at the time, there were no native seed nurseries in the Midwest that could provide the quality and volume of seed needed for large-scale restoration.

The need for seed prompted Apfelbaum to begin his own small nursery and, in 1987, he bought a farm in the flood plain of a clear-running stream in southern Wisconsin and began growing plots of native plants to source the expanding restoration work.

From these humble beginnings, AES and Taylor Creek Restoration Nurseries have become leaders in the burgeoning field of ecological restoration. Early projects were installed by Apfelbaum and two local farmers, Fred Faessler and John Oschner, who brought farm skills and ingenuity to the challenges of planting and harvesting native seed – which isn’t quite the same as corn and beans.

The growth of the company ramped up in the 1990s when AES built a new office, seed barn, and greenhouse complex that dramatically expanded the capability of the firm to take on large projects throughout the U.S.

In the late 90s, the design/build restoration of the 7,200-acre Kankakee Sands project for The Nature Conservancy demonstrated the combination of creativity and science that has become a hallmark of AES throughout its history. Necessity was the mother of invention on such a large, unprecedented restoration. New seeding techniques, establishment of an on-site, project-specific nursery, and other innovations brought the applied science of restoration to a new level of efficiency and proven success.

For more than 40 years, Taylor Creek Restoration Nurseries and AES’s mission has been to create ecologically-driven land-use solutions that are practical, economical, and based on the best science and technology.

RES shares a very similar mission – a commitment to restore our nation’s land and waters with innovation and ecological integrity, to preserve the environmental balance for future generations.

It was this overlap of mission and shared goals that lead us to join together, putting us in the unique position to take ecosystem restoration and mitigation to the next level.

Applied Ecological Services Office

Steve Apfelbaum with seed.