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Augusta dedication to environment lauded at fall harvest event

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Sustainable commitment: Augusta Township residents were invited to a celebration of World Energy Day held at Brophy Farm on October 22. JOURNAL PHOTO/BURCHELL

NORTH AUGUSTA - Augusta Township's vision for agricultural sustainability was called "incredible" at a celebration of World Energy Day. The township's council, staff and guest speakers gathered together at V6 Agronomy (Brophy Farm) on Branch Road to celebrate agriculture, community, economic development and the environment.

Coordinator Myron Belej, Augusta's Planner and Economic Development Manager, brought all the participants to the farm in celebration of World Energy Day. Guest speakers were a mix of local and long-distance specialists in farming and the environment, including the Canadian Wildlife Federation and Bee City Canada.

"This township's passion for sustainability is incredible," said John Espadero, a local beekeeper and owner of Bayanihan Honeybee Company. "They have the bigger picture in mind and the analogy between bees and this township is obvious: like bees the township and their staff have a mission and each is outstanding at his or her job in achieving that mission."

Mayor Doug Malanka spoke briefly to welcome those in attendance and expressed pride in his council and the township's residents.

"Our main priority is economic development, and this council and staff have shown dedication and commitment to that aim, while understanding that Augusta is a rural township and that agriculture and the environment are our most important and sustainable resources," said the mayor. "The staff's commitment to identifying several objectives shows a huge interest, but they have never lost sight of our rural connection which is definitely a large part of economic development."

Katherine Forster, Habitat Program Manager of Canadian Wildlife Federation, came from Ottawa to congratulate the township on the projects they have put in place to foster sustainability and protection of wildlife, including honeybees and monarch butterflies. She made special mention of the way the township has encouraged people to get involved in beekeeping and have even set up hives on township properties.

Shelly Candel, Director of Bee City Canada, also spoke, calling Augusta a township committed to protecting pollinators.

"They have an action plan consisting of planting, creating food and resting sites, and education," Candel said while addressing the crowd. "A 'Bee City' designation is awarded to a community who excels at doing all these things and Augusta Township is the fortieth area in the country to become a bee city. There are currently only 43 other areas with this designation."

Candel, who is from Toronto, said creating bee cities is now a huge movement across the country, but Augusta Township is the only area near here to achieve the honour. She congratulated the township's Public Works and Roads Manager Brad Thake on his pollinator-protection mowing plan.

Thake, who has worked for 25 years in public works, said he didn't know much about bees and butterflies until this past year when he met with specialists on the subject and began altering his roadside mowing program. He said when and where he can, he and his staff have created a "strategic mowing practice" and tries to mow with pollinators in mind, avoiding milkweed.

Milkweed is a food source and habitat of the Monarch Butterfly which is considered endangered. Pollinators, including Monarchs, require a diversity of flowering plants as well as milkweed and nectar- producing wildflowers. Candel and Forster say there are several ways a homeowner or a township mowing team can mow to increase and improve their habitat, such as slowing down and reducing frequency of mowing.

"The decline of Monarch Butterflies and other pollinators is receiving increasing attention, leading many landowners to wonder how they can help," says the CWF. "Rethinking mowing is one way you can make a difference."

Other speakers included Ron Grootjens of Bee Too Honey and Nicole Walker, Augusta's Manager of Recreation and Development, who brought a new and thriving farmer's market to the township.

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