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Farmers plant milkweed – on purpose

Farmers plant milkweed – on purpose

The plant’s fibres can be used for commercial goods

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

If you’re a cash crop farmer or livestock producer, chances are you do not want milkweed visible in your fields or pastures.

But some farmers are purposely seeding this weed.

Nathalie Leonard, a strawberry producer from Lac-du-Cerf, Que. dedicates about 60 acres to the perennial weed because it has environmental and commercial benefits.

Leonard is also president of Monark, a cooperative of milkweed farmers in Quebec and Vermont in the U.S.

“Every weed is only a weed because it’s in the wrong place,” she told the Associated Press yesterday. “I hate to have milkweed in my strawberry field.”

One revenue opportunity for milkweed is in the winter clothes industry.

Quartz Co., a Quebec-based winter jacket manufacturer, began producing jackets filled with milkweed in 2016. The milkweed replaces polyester or down feather insulation.

Those jackets sell for up to $950.

The plant can also be used for sound insulation and to clean up oil spills. The Canadian Coast Guard had gloves made using milkweed and the weed can be used to make a honey product.

Monarch butterfly populations have been in decline over recent years, reports say.

Planting milkweeds can help increase butterfly populations because the plant is the only host for monarch butterfly eggs and caterpillars eat the milkweed leaves.

Leonard will spend about three weeks harvesting her milkweed by hand this fall.

Cultivating a weed many would shy away from is a risk but that’s how success stories are made, she said.

“We are really pioneers,” she told the Associated Press. “We could lose it all. That’s how it works. You always need dreamers and people who are stubborn enough to keep going when people say it’s time to stop.”

Farms.com has reached out to Leonard for more information about her milkweed operation.

herreid/iStock/Getty Images Plus photo


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