By Kathy DeSanti
Agriculture is the number one industry in South Dakota. So, in 2016 when Toshiba’s toner plant in Mitchell, SD turned 30, employees decided to celebrate agronomically.
“Because pollinating insects, such as monarch butterflies and bees, are considered endangered species, we decided to focus on a biodiversity project,” said Teresa Sternhagen, General Manager at Toshiba Toner Products Division. “We had the perfect spot behind the plant for a pollinator plot.”
With the help of a local organization called Pheasants Forever and a 5th grade class, the local Toshiba team was able to transform an acre of land by planting grasses and flowers meant to attract pollinating insects.
Both the monarch butterfly and various species of bees are registered as endangered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service due to a decrease of their habitats. Pollinating insects are necessary for crops to thrive. Without them, humans could face a food crisis.
Since the migration path of the monarch butterfly passes through South Dakota, the Toshiba Toner Products Division saw an opportunity to help alleviate this threat by creating an inviting habitat. The team tracks how many of these black, orange, and white creatures visit the garden during the peak migration from the end of August to mid-September. In 2020 they counted nearly 80 during this timeframe.
All departments at the plant take part in maintaining this garden to ensure it continues to thrive year-to-year. Since the installation of the pollinating garden, the Toshiba team has continued make improvements. In 2018 they added a walking path and bench in the center of the plot; in 2019 a sign was erected, informing visitors of the biodiversity activity happening on the grounds.
The toner plant is now approaching 35 years of production and is continuing its tradition of continual improvements. Employees teamed up with members of the Future Farmers of America at a local high school to build and install a pergola, which will be placed at the center of the pollinator plot this May.
“We want to encourage people to go sit and enjoy the garden,” said Sternhagen. “This seemed like a great way to make it a relaxing place to do that.”