Ever wonder what it takes to grow a hobby into a successful career, in a brand new industry? Throw in the uncontrollable challenges of nature, weather… and thousands of living creatures and you will find Jacob Goth’s Swallowtail Farms.
Swallowtail Farms began as a hobby between Jacob and a close friend, but eventually grew into an incorporated business with employees and national distribution. He says he didn’t choose to grow butterflies for a living, the career chose him!
“Great sacrifices had to be made in those start-up years. There were many trials and errors since we were the first company to start in this new industry. We didn’t have a model to follow. This posed great challenges for us, but also great rewards in the end. I’ll never regret heading down this path which God chose for me.”
The greatest challenges are things beyond human control – nature and weather. Agriculture is very weather dependent and the butterflies have their own unique requirements as insects. “We can do everything right and have a great batch of thousands of fresh butterflies stocked in our flight house and then the county will have an ‘unannounced’ round of insecticide
helicopter sprayings during mosquito season. These events are great for reducing the mosquito population, but bad for butterflies!”
Jacob shares the many beautiful aspects of butterfly farming – greenhouses filled with rows of fresh sub-tropical milkweed growing vibrantly, butterfly hatching labs with newly hatched caterpillars, the size of a pencil tip, munching away on milkweed plants.
“That one plant may contain up to 5,000 caterpillars, which will devour the plant within hours.”
Or the flight house which is the final stop for the monarch butterflies before they are packed and sent to release events like the Home Hospice Butterfly Release & Family Celebrations.
But, Jacob says his favorite part of the job is receiving letters, pictures or cards from customers who were greatly moved by their experiences with the butterflies.
“There are not many products out there that create such a wonderfully joyful experience as the butterfly release. Many tears of joy have been shed from the experience of releasing our butterflies, especially at a funeral or a memorial service. I’m so thankful to be a part of that and I cherish each and every note I get back from my customers.”
Jacob says with God’s grace, they’ll be growing butterflies for many more years to come. That’s great news for those of us who will be holding one of those amazing creatures as we honor our loved ones this year!