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Ont. ag society launches milkweed project

Ont. ag society launches milkweed project

The Dunchurch Agricultural Society wants to attract more monarch butterflies

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

An Ontario ag society has started a new project in the absence of being able to host in-person fall fairs.

This spring, the Dunchurch Agricultural Society launched its first Dunchurch Milkweed Project to engage members of the Whitestone community.

“It’s a small project we planned for the fair,” Judy Quinn, a member of the ag society, told “We weren’t able to have a fair last year and we had to cancel this year’s because of COVID, so we’re trying our best to keep the ag society in the community’s mind.”

The project’s goal is to attract more monarch butterflies to the community, and milkweed is the only food source for monarch caterpillars.

Quinn and other ag society members were inspired to start this project by David West, a Whitestone cottager and Richmond Hill councillor who has experience tracking monarch butterflies.

West has also taken the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge from the National Wildlife Federation.

Taking the pledge represents a commitment to creating habitat for the monarch butterfly and other pollinators.

Quinn and Libby Ipsen, another community volunteer, ordered five types of milkweed seeds from Richters, a garden centre in Goodwood, Ont.

The milkweed varieties are regular milkweed, showy milkweed, swamp milkweed, gayfeather and pleurisy root.

The pair made up 25 kits complete with seeds and planting instructions. Community members have claimed all the available kits for the year.

“We only made 25 kits because we had no idea how interested people would be,” Quinn said. “But we’re so happy the community is on board.”

These plants can take a long time to germinate, and anyone planting pleurisy root should take extra caution, Quinn said.

“It’s a two-year project because the plants can take up to one year to germinate,” she said. “These are weeds and if the pleusiry root gets into hay fields and cows and horses eat it, it could be toxic.”

The Dunchurch Agricultural Society wouldn’t be the first group to purposely plant milkweed.

Nathalie Leonard, a Quebec strawberry producer, dedicates about 60 acres of her farm for milkweed production because of its environmental and commercial benefits.

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