Saving the Monarchs, one grant at a time

It’s been said that one small flap of a butterfly’s wings can cause a huge impact on the other side of the world. That remains to be seen, but in Gilmore City, Iowa, it only took one farmer’s nomination to make a great impact on the students in their community. 

Small Effort, Big Impact

When Kelsey Wigans saw the educational benefits that a STEM-focused Monarch butterfly program had on the kids in the Gilmore City-Bradgate School District, she wanted to see the program really take root and fly. After some research, she realized their district was eligible for an America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education donation, sponsored by Bayer Fund. 

Not long after, she secured a farmer’s nomination and later received the good news — their school would receive $10,000 for the Monarch Rearing Project. 

America’s Farmers programs, for schools like Gilmore City-Bradgate, mean an opportunity for kids to learn with a hands-on touch and be able to explore STEM opportunities in ways that we wouldn’t be able to fund otherwise,” said Wigans, a seed-to-table manager and dietician in the community.

The Beginning of a Great Journey

With the directed donation, the Monarch Rearing Project was able to convert a small, barely used shower locker room area in the school into a Monarch butterfly incubation room. The funds kept their hungry, hungry caterpillars fed with newly planted milkweed, and eventually allowed them to tag 400 Monarchs to be released to Mexico for their long migration journey. All along the journey, the K-6 grade students were immersed in the process, learning how butterflies, nature, the environment and agriculture all intersect to help pollinate our world. 

“It’s going to be great. When others say, ‘Where did these monarchs come from?’ We can say, ‘From Gilmore-Bradgate School District’,” said Superintendent Jeff Herzberg. “Too often we see negative stories about schools, but there are so many good things going on. The truth about our small rural school is that it’s a great place of learning for our kids.”

And now, because of Grow Rural Education, the students will be able to present their work at the Iowa Farm to School Conference to an audience of fellow farmers and students.

“I instantly felt excitement knowing these funds could be applied to new and innovative ways to expand our classrooms,” said Jessica Goodenow, principal of Gilmore City-Bradgate Elementary School. “I would like to say to the farmer who nominated our school: Thank you. The effect of your nomination is not only felt by myself, but the whole community.”

There are many initiatives like the Monarch Rearing Project that have benefited from the impact of America’s Farmers program, from making rural education more accessible to seeing how crops reach the table. If you’re a farmer that knows of a deserving school district in your community, nominate them today! The 2020 Grow Rural Education entry period begins January 1.