Before the butterfly garden; soil pH 4.7
Stephen and Edith Smith
Edith and Stephen started their life together on July 7, 1973. Stephen, 23, had just graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in pharmacy. Edith turned 18 on their wedding day. Their hope was to have five children very close together right away. They were blessed with the answer to this prayer. On November 24, 1975, David was born. He was followed by Mark in '77, Charlotte in '78, Ester in '81, and Rachel in '82. When the 'kids' were in school, Edith attended college and studied horticulture.
Stephen built Edith two greenhouses while she was in college in 1981. She raised a variety of plants, from trees to herbs to annuals to perennials to shrubs. With a desire to retire from pharmacy early, Stephen built Edith an herb nursery in the late 90's. Growing over 600 species of herbs, the nursery incorporated 4 greenhouses Stephen and Edith built with the help of their children and employees. Edith's sister, Sandra, brought butterfly host plants for Edith's garden. Watching a butterfly lay eggs on fennel for two days, Edith saw the results of butterfly predators. Determined to save butterflies from predators, Edith brought in Black Swallowtail eggs that were laid on fennel and other plants, raised them inside the greenhouse, and released them into the garden.
Edith met Dan and Kay sometime around July, 1999. Edith told Dan that she was raising butterflies to save them from predators. Dan offered to buy butterfly pupae from her if she had extra. Within a year Dan was buying over a thousand pupae per week. Realizing that she could save more butterflies by selling pupae to support the expenses of raising them, Edith and Stephen changed thier product from herbs to butterflies and butterfy host and nectar plants.
As time went on, two more greenhouses were added to the farm as well as labs and other buildings.
Stephen and Edith (with their son David, a web designer) raised many species of butterflies over the next year, raising up to three thousand total mixed species of pupae per week.
As Stephen and Edith learned more about butterfly farming (from day one forward), Stephen's background in biology and medicine was of great benefit. The course he took in entomology at the University of Florida was also of great benefit. The fact that he worked two summers (while he was in college) at the Division of Plant Industry, where the insect collection of the University of Florida was stored, didn't hurt! Stephen built some of the University's display cabinets those two summers.
During the busiest time of the year, the farm sometimes raises over 5,500 pupae per week. The preferred average at the farm is two to three thousand per week during spring and summer months. Butterfly and moth host and nectar plants are available at the farm or over the internet. The farm is approved to ship plants and butterflies to all 48 contiguous states.
Edith and Stephen travel to do educational butterfly presentations. These presentations range from butterfly information in general, butterfly gardens and habitat, and more. Audiences range from school classes, butterfly garden clubs, Kiwanis, birthdays, Altrusa, churches, and more. All presentations include live butterflies, eggs, caterpillars, chrysalises, and adults. A powerpoint presentation is created by Edith for each type presentation and updated often; with photos taken at the farm to demonstrate exactly each point of the presentation. Some of the PowerPoint presentations from the farm are available at www.butterfliesetc.com.
At the farm; tours, field trips, educational classes, native butterfly exhibit (30x50), butterfly garden, a plant nursery, and more.
In the years beyond the start of Shady Oak Butterfly Farm, several of their children raised their children at the farm. Shady Oak is a true family farm. Charlotte ran the office during the early years, raising Jonathan and Jacob at the farm while she worked. Charlotte is now working in the larvae lab. Next, Rachel worked at the farm for a while, starting the Painted Lady rearing process at Shady Oak; the last USDA release approved species of butterflies raised at the farm. Ester soon started working at the farm. After her first little one, Michael, was born, she left her job at Cardiology Associates to take over the office work from Edith. Soon after, Caden was born. Ester's husband is a paramedic and is in fire school and works in Jacksonville. Ester has graduated nursing school and will soon leave us at the farm.. As the work load became more than could be handled, Michelle, David's wife, started working at the farm and is now the office manager. Their son, Timothy, is often at the farm when not in school. Christina, Ester's husband's cousin's wife (are you dizzy yet?) works in the office. Scott, Christina's husband, works at the farm, doing the hardest work of all -outdoors and in hot greenhouses. The sounds you hear in the background when you phone are the grandchildren and Christina's two children, blessed to be raised in a farm enviroment, spending their days with their parents. Timothy, Jonathan, Jacob, Michael, and Caden as well as Christina's two (Gabe and Lexie) all attend Community Christian School in Keystone. In the greenhouses, Pat works faithfully, growing plants for the larvae and for our customers. Tammy works at the farm, helping with packing and assisting everywhere when needed. Pat and Tammy are not related in one way or another and we are blessed to have them on our team.
Side note: Stephen made butterfly shadowboxes while he was in his teens and early twenties. On Edith's 17th birthday, he made and gave her a set of these shadowboxes with this statement; "On our 25th anniversary, you can open the center box. Behind the butterflies and the lining is something little for you to see." Two days before their 25th anniversary, their five children surprised them with an anniversary dinner and a mandate that the box be opened two days early. All five children could not be at the house on their 25th anniversary.
Inside the box, behind the lining ... 25th anniversary.