The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association unveiled the 2023 Common Ground Fair poster this week. It features the life cycle of the monarch butterfly by Maine artist Rebekah Lowell. Credit: Courtesy of MOFGA

Maine artist Rebekah Lowell incorporated her love of monarch butterflies and her own history as a domestic abuse survivor to create the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association 2023 Common Ground Fair poster.

Titled “Monarchs and Milkweed,” Lowell’s submission was judged by MOFGA staff and volunteers and was unveiled Tuesday at the Maine Agricultural Trade Show in Augusta.

The poster depicts the life cycle of the monarch butterfly with cocoons, caterpillars and flying adults on and around stems of flowering milkweed, the monarch’s preferred habitat plant.

“As a survivor of domestic abuse, monarchs hold a special place in my heart,” Lowell said. “For their resiliency, strength and metamorphosis, despite their size.”

This past summer the monarch butterfly was added to the “red list” of threatened species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and categorized as endangered.

Over the last decade the population of monarch butterflies in North America has declined between 22 and 72 percent, depending on the measurement method. Here in Maine people who normally have thousands of the butterflies in their yards have noticed a steep drop in numbers over the past year.

Wildlife officials attribute that population decline to climate change and use of pesticides along the butterflies migratory route between Maine and Mexico.

Over the last several years Lowell has rescued and released more than 1,000 monarch butterflies in Maine.

“Monarchs are suffering due to climate change and habitat loss,” she said. “They need milkweed to survive so anywhere you can let native milkweed grow — or plant new milkweed — you’re helping monarchs have a chance at life.”

The work to save monarch butterflies fits well with MOFGA’s commitment to and celebration of rural living, according to April Boucher, director of the Common Ground Fair.

“We are grateful to feature Rebekah’s beautiful artwork as the central image for the 2023 fair,” Boucher said. “Her detailed portrayal of the monarch butterfly’s life cycle offers us the opportunity to highlight the importance of this keystone species and the continued conservation efforts needed to help ensure the survival of pollinators.”

Planning is underway for the 2023 Common Ground Country Fair taking place Sept. 22, 23 and 24 in Unity. Prints of the 2023 poster featuring Lowell’s work are available from MOFGA on its website or at its Freeport store.

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Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.