Created to increase the supply of California Native Asclepias (Milkweed) varieties and other California native nectar plants for large-scale Monarch conservation programs and restoration projects, Native Monarchs was established in 2020 by Chris Amendt, a licensed medical laboratory professional and landscaper based in Ventura County, California
A Clear Vision
Chris Amendt, the founder of Native Monarchs and Monarch Botanika, is a dedicated advocate for the natural world and a tireless champion of Monarch butterfly conservation. She holds degrees in Cytotechnology from CSU, Dominguez Hills and UCLA, specializing in identifying cells and abnormalities, including cancer. Certified by the American Society of Clinical Pathologists and trained as a Specialist in Cytotechnology, she spent over two decades diagnosing cancer cells in a medical testing laboratory and earned a Platinum Project Management Certification.
Despite her successful medical career, Chris felt a deep longing to have a more meaningful impact on the environment. Raised by her grandmother, “Grammy” Betty, who instilled a love for wildlife and the outdoors, Chris's childhood was filled with science projects involving butterflies, caterpillars, birds, and plants. Her grandmother encouraged her not just to play in the backyard but to explore, respect, and support the wildlife there. This early connection to nature became the basis of her life's work.
However, it was her deep love for nature and an unwavering passion for Monarch butterfly conservation that eventually inspired Chris to leave her corporate job. Influenced by her grandmother's wisdom and her personal experiences in nature, she sought out alternative ways to make a positive impact. In 2018, she established Efficient Lab Innovations, not only to support herself after leaving her corporate job but also as a platform to give back to the community. Her venture centered on the design and manufacture of advanced laboratory tools, with the aim of enhancing efficiency and quality for frontline employees. Her innovative spirit led to the development of multiple patented and trademarked products, setting her on a journey of invention and exploration. Chris's decision to reinvest the proceeds from one of her patents underscored her genuine dedication to fulfilling her true passion: contributing significantly to the well-being of the planet.
A NEW JOURNEY
In 2020, amidst the challenges of the pandemic, Chris established Native Monarchs, a non-profit organization dedicated to addressing the Monarch population crisis and fostering essential habitats. During that same year, she undertook the ambitious project of constructing her first large-scale Monarch butterfly habitat at her local golf course, Sterling Hills in Camarillo, Ca., with assistance from Audubon International and the Environmental Defense Fund, Monarchs in the Rough, partnering with golf courses to restore pollinator habitat in out-of-play areas.
She took a unique approach aimed at promoting habitat preservation in diverse environments, encompassing residential and commercial landscapes, golf courses, agricultural land, schools, wineries, and various other areas. This approach recognized the significant impact that even minor changes in landscaping practices could have on supporting pollinators and beneficial insects.
Taking her commitment further, Chris embarked on a journey of propagating Milkweed plants to sell and donate to Ventura County gardeners and Monarch butterfly advocates. As she cultivated native Milkweed for people's Monarch gardens, she noticed she had a surplus of unviable seeds left over. Intrigued by the potential of these seeds, she attempted to repurpose them as plant fertilizer or natural pest deterrent. However, it became clear that the seeds held a more remarkable secret: they could be naturally cold-pressed to extract a unique oil. Drawing upon her medical knowledge and conducting chemical composition tests on the oil, she discovered the Milkweed Seed Oil’s exceptional qualities, rich in Omega fatty acids 3, 6, 9, and 7—a rarity in the plant world. Recognizing the potential to create a premium skincare product that directly supported the Monarch conservation mission, Chris decided to make and sell this unique oil-based product, with 50% of the sales dedicated to monarch conservation efforts.
Services and Mission
Native Monarchs’ services and goals include, but are not limited to:
- Facilitating contract growing and expanding accessibility to native Milkweed and nectar plants that are vital for Monarch butterflies and crucial for environmental restoration and the establishment of new habitats.
- Collaborating on habitat development initiatives in partnership with golf courses, corporations, and privately-owned landowners to create thriving Monarch butterfly habitats.
- Engaging in transplant production and establishing robust plant populations to support Monarchs.
- Enlisting local seed collection subcontractors to promote sustainable practices.
- Conducting research and development efforts focused on native wildflower plugs and flats to facilitate large-scale plantings.
- Providing educational opportunities aimed at involving local communities, schools, and businesses in Monarch conservation efforts.
- Actively participating in Monarch conservation, including the maintenance and enhancement of existing habitats.
Amid the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which have significantly impacted growers worldwide, some have sought alternative crops to cultivate. The inclusion of native Milkweed and nectar plants in their production efforts not only offers a potential lifeline to struggling growers but also contributes to the availability of essential host plants for Monarchs facing their own challenges. Together, we can make a difference for the Monarchs and their ecosystems.
Native Monarchs Partners
Native Monarchs collaborates with subject matter experts and respected organizations and industries based in Ventura County, each contributing significant expertise and experience to the mission of aiding the declining Monarch butterfly population:
- Fujii Growers (Dba FMK Products), led by owner and grower Dwight Fujii, is located in Camarillo. Dwight Fujii holds a PhD in plant physiology and established his company in 1982. His vision was to cultivate exotic herbs, vegetables, and micro-greens for restaurants and markets in the United States. Today, Fujii Growers/FMK Products offers a year-round selection of products available in California, across the United States, and occasionally worldwide. Additionally, the company conducts research and cultivates plant varieties that are not commonly found in the local market.
- California State University, Channel Islands: Chris is currently engaged in the creation of Monarch habitats within the campus garden, expanding her influence in the realm of Monarch conservation.
- The Agriculture Industry in Ventura County: In collaboration with the USDA and their Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) programs, along with the Ventura County Resource Conservation District (VCRCD), Chris plays a pivotal role in driving Pollinator Habitat Programs for Farmers and Ranchers. Her leadership is instrumental in pioneering the cultivation of Milkweed as a viable native agricultural "crop," meticulously harvesting seeds for the extraction of precious oil used in Monarch Botanika's exceptional beauty products.
- The Golf Industry: Chris collaborates with the Southern California Golf Association (SCGA) to educate golf course managers about the benefits of wildlife coexistence on the course. This includes replacing out-of-play areas with lower maintenance native habitats conducive to Monarchs, pollinators, and other wildlife.
- Elementary and High Schools: Chris is dedicated to establishing specific Monarch and pollinator areas in school gardens. Her educational efforts extend to faculty and students, emphasizing how pollinators significantly enhance fruit and vegetable crop yields while allowing students to observe the lifecycle of various beneficial insects.
- Wineries: Many wineries boast captivating gardens outside their tasting rooms. Chris identifies this as a unique opportunity to introduce a curated selection of butterfly and bird-friendly plants, enriching the experience for visitors.
- Homeowners Associations (HOAs): Common areas within HOAs often feature high-maintenance, water-consuming annuals that are frequently replaced. Chris promotes perennial and succulent landscaping designs that not only enhance aesthetics but also require less maintenance, are drought-tolerant, and serve the higher purpose of benefiting Monarchs and pollinators.
- Landscaping Industry: Chris is an advocate for transforming landscaping industry practices. Her mission is to shift from routine lawn mowing, weekly pruning, and the use of fertilizers and herbicides to more thoughtful landscape designs that provide essential food, shelter, and host plants for insects and birds. Her guiding principle is "Landscape for Life, Not just Looks."
These extraordinary endeavors not only support Monarch butterflies but also breathe new life into the synergy between agriculture, residential and commercial landscaping, and conservation. Her unyielding vision is rooted in fostering community awareness, spearheading sustainable practices, and instigating profound change for the benefit of Monarch butterflies and our environment. Her inspiring journey serves as a testament that one passionate individual can lead transformative change, ultimately leaving a lasting legacy for generations to come.