In January 2023, the Monarch Joint Venture (MJV) partnered with tentree to launch an exciting initiative aimed at conserving the monarch butterfly migration. The free milkweed plug giveaway program, led by MJV’s Midwest Habitat Coordinator, Jake Koenig, targeted select states in the central flyway of the United States. Farmers for Monarchs and the MJV promoted the program through social media, rendering exceptional interest. The overwhelming response from agricultural producers and conservation enthusiasts demonstrated a strong commitment to protecting monarch habitats and fostering biodiversity.
The primary objective of the milkweed giveaway was to distribute milkweed plants, the host plant for monarch butterflies, to producers in priority states throughout the central flyway at absolutely zero cost to them (including associated shipping costs!). The priority states included Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wisconsin. Other states in the central flyway were also encouraged to apply. The initial plan was to fund 58 projects and provide two flats per recipient, each flat containing 36 milkweed plants.
The announcement of the milkweed giveaway generated significant interest and enthusiasm. Within 24 hours of the program's launch, the MJV received a staggering 225 applications. The response far exceeded expectations, highlighting the dedication and passion of agriculture producers striving to positively impact monarch butterfly conservation.
Due to the overwhelming response, the MJV staff closed the application process after just one week. By the end of the application period, 716 applications had been received. Determining which producers would receive the milkweed stems was challenging for the MJV staff. During the selection process, they were able to obtain additional funding through a donation from the Ingraham Foundation to put towards this initiative to fund more projects than initially planned. MJV staff carefully reviewed each application and made a concerted effort to assess the suitability of the proposed habitats for monarch butterflies. After extensive evaluation, the MJV selected 105 producers across 213 sites to receive milkweed stems. In late May, 7,560 milkweed plugs were shipped to the chosen producers and planted on 588 acres.
The 2023 free milkweed plug giveaway represents a significant step toward bolstering monarch butterfly populations along the Central Flyway for eastern monarchs. By providing essential milkweed plants to producers, the Monarch Joint Venture and tentree are actively contributing to restoring and expanding critical monarch habitats. The collective effort of all participants in this program will help sustain and protect these iconic butterflies, ensuring their survival for generations to come.
We look forward to rerunning this campaign in the future, so please keep your eyes peeled for these opportunities and be sure to share with those you think may be interested in helping with this endeavor! Until then, milkweed plugs for landowners in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Illinois, eastern Nebraska, and select areas of Michigan can be purchased through the MJV’s store HERE. Or check out our Vendor Map to find a plant nursery near you.
Have questions about your pollinator habitat? Visit the MJV’s Habitat Help Desk
We love receiving feedback from the producers who received free milkweed plugs. Read their responses and check out their photos below.