Jordan Winery recognized for helping monarch butterflies

The Sonoma County winery was named 2022 Monarch Sustainer of the Year by Pollinator Partnership, the world’s largest nonprofit dedicated to the protection and conservation of vital pollinators.|

The western monarch butterfly, one of the most threatened pollinators across the American West, has found an advocate at Jordan Vineyard & Winery in Alexander Valley.

This month, the winery was named 2022 Monarch Sustainer of the Year by Pollinator Partnership, the world’s largest nonprofit dedicated to the protection and conservation of vital pollinators. The award recognizes the winery’s leadership and action in providing habitats for monarchs along their migratory corridors.

With a history of land stewardship and sustainable farming practices, Jordan Vineyard & Winery launched a major effort in 2020 to transform 10 acres of its 1,200-acre property from nonnative grassland into a pollinator’s paradise.

In collaboration with Pollinator Partnership, the winery planted over 300 milkweed seeds, along with 2,500 pollinator-friendly, noninvasive plants. Milkweed is the sole food source for the western monarch caterpillar. The hope was to create a refuge for vital pollinators while playing a key role in the estate’s overall biodiversity.

But as the team at Jordan Winery soon discovered, the best-laid plans can go awry.

Over the years that followed the project, severe drought, erratic temperatures and the milkweed plant’s fickle growth habits were not kind to the new plantings. When Pollinator Partnership conducted their first post-planting survey in the fall of 2021, they discovered many of the new plantings had not survived.

“California’s unpredictable weather has really forced us to adapt and evolve our efforts to measure up to the dry seasons,” said Brent Young, director of agricultural operations at Jordan Winery. “It’s been a learning curve, finding the best ways to support these plants on our estate. But we’ve taken what we learned and implemented some new strategies with Pollinator Partnership, so I’m excited for our next phase.”

In December 2022, the winery planted 370 new pollinator-friendly plants, followed by the resowing of 2,000 seeds in February. A new drip-irrigation system will provide adequate water to sustain the new plants and ensure their long-term survival. The winery estimates 40-50% of the seeds have already germinated and begun to grow.

“We took full advantage of this year’s rain and started early so we could apply a much more natural approach to establishing the pollinator plants,” Young said. “I’m hopeful the sanctuary will survive long-term without water and we won’t face the same issues again.”

Kelly Bills, executive director of Pollinator Partnership, said she’s “amazed by the commitment of Jordan’s ownership and staff in protecting not just monarch butterflies, but all partnerships.

“They show extreme care and consideration in their approach to incorporating conservation into their farming practices. It is not easy work, but it makes a big difference,” she said in a news release.

Essential to the health of native and agricultural ecosystems, more than 200,000 animal species are pollinators, including bees, birds, bats, butterflies and mice.

According to Pollinator Partnership, between 75 to 95% of flowering plants rely on pollinators for fertilization, including 1,200 crops. In the United States alone, pollination by honey bees and other insects produce nearly $20 billion worth of products each year.

But loss of habitat, pesticides, disease and climate change have been devastating for pollinators. The western monarch butterfly population, for example, has seen a 90% decline since the 1990s. However, butterfly counts for 2021 and 2022 by the Xerces Society, a nonprofit focused on conservation of insects and other invertebrates, have shown hopeful signs that monarch populations are rebounding in California.

“Protecting pollinators such as the at-risk western monarch butterfly, native bees and others is a critical part of our land stewardship and sustainability efforts,” said John Jordan, chief executive officer at Jordan Winery, in a news release. “I’m pleased our dedicated estate and ranch team are being recognized for their diligent efforts despite the challenges we’ve faced. I hope our actions inspire more landowners across the West to do the same.”

To learn more about Pollinator Partnership’s efforts to protect and sustain vital pollinators, visit

You can reach Staff Writer Sarah Doyle at 707-521-5478 or On Twitter @whiskymuse.

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