[Submitted to the Des Moines Register on August 6, 2017.]

I am the Director of Milkweed Matters, an organization which works to increase pollinator habitat in the roadsides of Iowa and the subject of Bette VenHorst-Lombardi’s recent Letter to the Editor. In our 2017 season, almost 4,000 Iowans attended more than 80 educational seedball-rolling events across the state, producing over 60,000 common milkweed seedballs. During RAGBRAI, over 7,000 riders, many from out of state, stopped by the educational booths to learn about our efforts and participate in our “crowd-planting” project.

To fully restore the Monarch Butterfly population to a sustainable size, recent studies have reported the need to plant 1.8 billion milkweed stems. This will only be accomplished if large-scale prairie and wetland reconstructions are developed on former farmland. However, the 114,486 miles of roadside ditches in the state are ideal sites for native plantings that support pollinators. The objective of Iowa’s Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management program is to establish diverse stands of native plants in roadsides. The 2017 Iowa Monarch Conservation Strategy lists restoring habitat in rights-of-way as one of five best management practices for helping the species. After a successful week on RAGBRAI, almost a quarter of a million seeds now lay inside of a seedball in the right-of-way along the route, awaiting stratification and a hospitable spring. We must restore habitat where we can, while simultaneously fighting that which destroys it.

It would be foolish to think seedballs in the roadsides hold the solution to very complex issues of glyphosate use, habitat loss, or pollinator decline. Instead, we are one of hundreds of grassroots organizations in Iowa attempting to impact a piece of the puzzle.

With-all-hands-on-deck, Kelly Guilbeau, Milkweed Matters



Here are some exciting announcements, as we gear up for RAGBRAI only two weeks away!

Thanks to all of our amazing partners across the state of Iowa, we’ve held almost 60 educational seedball rolling events, engaging almost 3,000 Iowans of all ages, and rolled over 50,000 seedballs!

We will distribute these seedballs at eight booth locations during the week of RAGBRAI. Locations are below:

booth locations

If you’d like some Milkweed Matters swag, you can buy some here!

See you on the route! Be sure to follow our Facebook or Twitter to see real-time pictures and ride updates!


REAP CEP Mini-Grant Acquired!

The 2017 Seedball Efforts will be generously funded by the Resource Enhancement and Protection Conservation Education Program (REAP CEP)!

Resource Enhancement and Protection Program (REAP): Invest in Iowa, our outdoors, our heritage, our people. REAP is supported by the state of Iowa, providing funding to public and private partners for natural and cultural resources projects, including water quality, wildlife habitat, soil conservation, parks, trails, historic preservation and more.


2017 Route Announced

In the late summer of 2017, our team – aptly named Milkweed Matters – will don wings and other pollinator-related costumes to spread milkweed seedballs along the northern-most edge of our state of Iowa. The RAGBRAI officials have announced the overnight towns of this year’s ride:


In the coming weeks and months, we’ll need to engage a ton of volunteers to make thousands of seedballs and manage our educational booths along the route.  Don’t you want to help?! Get in touch with us to find out how!

Artwork and Conservation COLLIDE

A conversation with Iowa artist Bryan Mock confirms: Art has a REAL place is environmental conservation.

His recent series of work, which he calls #milkweedmandala is a powerful display of how art can push forward a message of doing good.

And the best part? 20% of his sales will go towards the Milkweed Matters initiative.  Think of all the seedballs this could help fund!

Check out the beautiful pieces HERE.

Read about his process HERE.

Follow the Instagram journey HERE.

View at


Can you believe it?

Just six months ago, we set out to make 35,000 common milkweed seedballs.  And, then the number was originally tossed out, we all sort of thought to ourselves, “Ha! Yeah right! That would be incredible!” with no idea of how far we’d actually come to reaching that goal. And, incredibly, with hundreds and hundreds of helping hands….

We’ve reached our goal!  Over the spring and summer, we’ve held a couple dozen events with groups and public across the state of Iowa. These audiences have been incredibly interested in the story of the Monarch and her pollinator friends.  They’ve wanted to know every single thing about milkweed and other nectar plants. They’ve been eager to roll as many seedballs as time would allow. And, by golly, we’ve done it!

Check out the page under RAGBRAI/2016 for pictures from some of these events.


Spreading the Word

First, Charity Nebbe, host of Talk of Iowa on Iowa Public Radio liked the Milkweed Matters Facebook page. Then, I received a phone call from IPR asking me to be a guest on an upcoming spot on the recent rise of the Monarch population, then that guest interview happened.  And, now, I’m sharing the stream with you!

Listen to the interview here! 

Hopefully, this is only the beginning of the media’s interest in the seedball initiative for 2016!