Income through conservation: Training farmers to produce plant materials for specialist butterflies.

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2023: $48,416.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2025
Grant Recipient: Michigan State University
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Meghan Milbrath
Michigan State University


No commodities identified


No practices identified

Proposal abstract:

Pollinators across the region are in decline. Of particular concern are specialist butterflies, whose habitat is shrinking due to the loss of the specific native plants on which they depend. Michigan is home to two endangered butterfly rearing programs, but habitat restoration efforts are limited by the availability of affordable plant materials. While many small-scale farmers have land that could grow the needed native plants, they lack training in native plant cultivation. This project outlines a training program for vegetable farmers and native plant producers and increases connections between them and the conservation community.  

We will partner with butterfly conservationists and native plant experts to identify needs and sources for stock materials and to develop a training program on the cultivation and harvesting of these materials. This program will include webinars, handouts, and field days. We will also create an online education module for the public and point of sale materials explaining the importance of specialist butterfly host plants and will create supply chains through leveraging connections with conservation partners.  

 This program uniquely addresses a key sustainability concern around the loss of pollinators and provides local farmers an additional income stream and a sustainable use for their land.  

Project objectives from proposal:

The goal of this project is to increase the habitat for native specialist butterflies in Michigan by working with farmers to grow native plants. We will do this through the following objectives: 

  1. Improve access to stock of specialist native plants for growers through purchasing and distribution.  
  1. Train farmers to grow and harvest native plants. This training will take the form of field days, webinars, and published case studies.  
  1. Increase planting of specialist plants through online education, point of sale materials, and connections with conservation partners.  
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.