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Making Monarch Oases
A winery, a 4-H club, some lawn-owners and others are learning to serve and save pollinators.
Autumn has been active for Orange Environment, Inc. (OE), an Orange County based nonprofit organization aiming to protect the natural resources of Orange County and its environs and promote the sustainability of its communities.
OE has been working on planting native plant gardens to attract local pollinators funded by an Orange and Rockland Utilities STEM grant. One such garden in the Orange County region was planted at the Salesian Park in Goshen, NY. It was established under the guidance of Dr. Anne Wibiralske, science advisor for OE and director of Orange Environment’s Hudson Valley Pollinator Project in collaboration with the Goshen-based 4H troop called the Trottown Explorers, led by Ms. Kate Schmidt.
“We are working with community organizations to educate kids about the steep decline in pollinators over the last 20 years, and to show them how much fun we can have being part of the solution by growing plants native to our local region,” said Dr. Wibiralske. “These native plants and local pollinators have co-evolved ways to live together and help each other survive. The more native species we plant, the more we increase the chances for our insect populations to thrive in our communities and into the future.”
Dr. Joseph Grizzanti, an OE Board member and co-owner of the Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery and Warwick Valley Orchards, said that “…farmers are very aware of the decrease in pollinators that fertilize most of our fruits and vegetables. Healthy populations of bees, butterflies, and other pollinators are needed to ensure the health of our crops in this region.”
Dr. Grizzanti has also noticed the reduction in monarch butterflies over the years and last year grew over a thousand milkweed plants, the only plant that is food for the monarch caterpillar. He distributed these plants for free to any Winery visitor who wanted them.
He pointed out that “…over 86% of the land east of the Mississippi is privately owned… so the idea here is that if every homeowner transforms even a small portion of their lawn to reclaim it as a feeding and nesting zone for pollinators, including the monarch, we as citizen scientists can prevent the monarch from going extinct. Converting a bit of our lawns, which have no food value for our pollinators, into food and nectar sources would go a long way to re-invigorate pollinator populations -- and in the process beautify our gardens with native flowers, butterflies, and other wildlife.”
Known as the Homegrown National Park project, this nationwide program is spearheading the initiative (homegrownnationalpark/org.) This year Dr. Grizzanti plans to double milkweed production and give the plants away in the spring and summer to help save the monarch. His motto is, “If you plant it they will come!”
For more information about Orange Environment and its work– including volunteer opportunities - please go to https://orangeenvironment.com.
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