Butterfly farm grows from dream to reality in Dahlonega
When Joann Goldenburg worked amongst the hustle and bustle of Atlanta, she called Dahlonega her ‘secret place,’ to get away from the big city. Now, Goldenburg has created a getaway of her own that combines her favorite place with her favorite passion, butterflies.
The Dahlonega Butterfly Farm, located off Castleberry Bridge Road, had its grand opening on Saturday morning, showcasing a project a lifetime in the making.
“I always wanted to do something good for the environment and that idea, as I grew older, just became stronger and stronger, to build this butterfly farm,” Goldenburg said. “And so the idea basically just never went away. So I hit a certain age and I said ‘I gotta build my farm now.’”
Ready to make her dream a reality, she turned to the place she once used as a distraction from reality.
“I moved here because, when I was in Corporate America, Dahlonega was my secret place,” Goldenburg said. “I love the city and the people here,” she said, “so it just seemed natural, when I was ready to start this business, Dahlonega was the place to go.”
Goldenburg was exposed to nature early in life, which helped grow the love that she still has for the earth.
“[My mom] owned a nursery in Atlanta, a plant nursery, and she grew all kinds of plants and she pretty much taught me everything I know about plants and butterflies and all that so this is an honor to her as well,” she said.
After 18 months of planning and eight months of construction, Goldenburg now has the place she’s always dreamed of.
“We have an 800 square foot butterfly conservatory that houses about 200 butterflies,” Goldenburg said. “And then we have a caterpillar habitat, which teaches people the types of plants that the caterpillars eat, so this farm is all about sustainability and teaching people a little bit about the environment and how important our pollinators are to our food cycle and to the environment.”
Managing an eight-acre farm is much more than a one-person job, so Goldenburg, a self-proclaimed “science geek,” was sure to get the best help available. In part, this meant getting students from the University of North Georgia who were already interested in making their careers in science. Majoring in biology at UNG, it was an obvious decision for Henry Rives to apply to work at the farm.
“I’ve always been interested in plants,” Rives said.
Rives first heard about the farm from his roommate and decided to come check it out for himself.
“Next thing I knew I was working here,” he said.
Now, Rives serves as the farm’s horticultural manager, “taking care of the plants and a lot of other maintenance too,” he says.
Goldenburg’s plan is for the farm to be much more than simply an attraction.
“The whole purpose of this farm is to teach people about conservation and how to live in a sustainable way,” Goldenburg said. “It’s good for the environment to be able to conserve energy and that goes right along with sustainability as well. If we conserve energy and conserve the way we live, we can actually sustain ourselves much better, and for less money too. I’m hoping to teach people about the environment, teach people about sustainability and also the life cycle of butterflies. I would love to hopefully inspire some children to get more involved in nature and to get involved in science-oriented classes.”
And while teaching is still only a plan for the future, Goldenburg is already inspiring people, judging by the crowd at the farm’s first day of business.
“We saw the ad on FaceBook and just loved the idea of seeing butterflies from around here and seeing the different species,” said Jill Lusky, who brought her family out to the grand opening.
Pat Willis, who was already visiting from California, joked that the farm was worth a flight across the country, saying she “came from California for the butterflies.”
But for those who haven’t gotten the chance to come out to the farm yet, there’s still plenty of time. The Dahlonega Butterfly Farm will be open each week, Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. until November 7 when they’ll close for the season.
And while you can’t bring the butterflies home from the farm, Goldenburg has some tips on how to make your own personal butterfly farm, right in the backyard.
“To attract the most butterflies, you’re going to want to have the host plants, such as Parsley, Milkweed, Fenol and Dill and you’re going to want to have a lot of nectar plants for the adult butterflies,” she said. “Some of the best nectar plants are Lantanas, Coreopsis, Verbena, you’re going to want to have some Buddleia. You’re going to want some Dianthus, pretty much any flowering plant is a good nectar plant for butterflies.”