The 1st International Symposium on Milkweed
Last Friday I traveled to Becancour, Quebec with our friend Jose Luis Alvarez for the 1st International Symposium on American Silk (aka milkweed). The symposium was put together by Francois Simard. He's a textiles engineer who's developing technologies to use milkweed fibers as a down substitute in winter jackets. Francois is trying to persuade farmers to plant milkweed as a commercial crop in the USA and Canada.
A BIG thank you to Annette and David Cunniffe who helped sponsor Jose Luis' trip from Mexico to Canada. From left: Jose Luis Alvarez, Peggy Farabaugh, Annette Cunniffe and David Cunniffe.
The Monarch's Summer Habitat (Milkweed) is Disappearing
Unfortunately, over the last couple decades the monarch's summer milkweed habitat has been decimated throughout North America by the use of glyphosphate (aka RoundUp). As monarch lovers we're excited about the new milkweed industry because of its potential to help restore the monarch's habitat. That is, of course if the milkweed is grown organically without the use of chemicals that could harm the butterflies.
Jose Luis was a favorite speaker at the 2017 Milkweed Symposium. He shared details about his forest restoration projects in the areas where monarchs over-winter.
The Monarch's Winter Habitat (Mexican Forestland) is also Disappearing
The same butterflies that summer in Vermont & along the US-Canadian border fly south in the Fall, making a 3,000 mile journey to Mexico's oyamel forests. That forestland has been severely degraded by illegal logging. Our friend Jose Luis Alvarez is a leader in restoring the monarch's winter habitat in Mexico and Vermont Woods Studios has been supporting his reforestation efforts.
Francois Simard, Jose Luis Alvarez, myself and Annette Cunniffe (from left) are discussing the importance of producing milkweed organically.
We're Working to Restore Both Habitats
You may be wondering why a furniture company cares about monarch habitat. Well, I founded Vermont Woods Studios because I wanted to use Vermont's sustainable wood furniture to promote forest conservation. Since our start, we've always planted at least one tree for every furniture order. When we learned about the need to combat deforestation in the monarch's Mexican habitat we wanted to help. Last year, through Jose Luis' Forests for Monarchs non-profit, we planted 4,000 trees in the monarch's winter habitat. This year we plan to increase that to 5,000. We've been planting milkweed habitat in Vermont for several years so why not tie the two projects together?
A Symbol of North American Cooperation
Because the monarch's life cycle centers around migration between Canada, the USA and Mexico, it has become a symbol of North American cooperation. The butterfly is considered an endangered species in Canada and scientists are working to get it on the list in the USA as well. If we can work together to save the monarch... who knows what other awesome things we might be able to accomplish?
Learn more about our Save the Monarchs efforts here. If you're inspired to plant trees, you can donate to Forests for Monarchs, a non-profit started by Jose Luis Alvarez.