Pioneering Produce Partnership
|The site at Foundry Row was once an industrial bakery, a paper mill, and a plastic cup factory|
|Construction of the new Foundry Row Shopping Center began in 2013 on the site of an old Solo Cup factory in Owings Mills|
|Three years in the making, the new Wegman's supermarket opened to great fanfare in Owings Mills on September 18, 2016|
|Soldiers Delight Ranger Sara Marcinak displays an American crow in 2015|
While the snakes and raptors enjoy an exclusively carnivorous diet, the corvids in our aviary, a crow and a raven, enjoy fresh berries and greens when they can get them. The turtles housed in our visitor center, of which we have several native varieties, thrive on all sorts of fresh fruit and vegetables. As construction progressed on the new Wegman's store, Lynell formulated a plan for feeding these captive herbivores at considerable savings to the Maryland Park Service's overstretched budget.
|Wegman's Manager Matt LePore and SDCI vice president Lynell Tobler meet on opening day to discuss a "produce partnership" for the rehabilitated animals at the Soldiers Delight aviary|
She approached the naturalists in charge of animal care at Soldiers Delight. What would be their idea of an ideal diet for the resident herbivores? If they could choose from an entire produce department of fresh fruit and veggies, what would make the animals happiest?
It wasn't a particularly long wishlist and it wouldn't take a lot of effort or expense for Wegman's to fulfill: one orange, three apples, one small bunch of grapes, a single medium squash such as zucchini, one small basket of berries such as blueberries, blackberries or raspberries, and three heads of romaine lettuce each week, along with one bag of sturdy greens like spinach or kale and a few walnuts once a month.
Lynell prepared a formal letter to Matt LePore, describing how the resident wildlife at Soldiers Delight cannot be released back into their natural habitats due either to their injuries or the fact that they have been imprinted on humans and would not know to fear them or how to forage for food on their own. She explained how each animal participates in Patapsco Valley State Park's Scales & Tales Program, which brings rehabilitated wildlife into inner city classrooms, senior centers and other venues to teach children and adults about nature and the value of our wild spaces. Lynell wrote about the turtles, frogs and birds which need fresh produce every day.
|Soldiers Delight Ranger Jamie Petrucci receives a box of fresh produce from Wegman's clerk Collin Butler|
In two weeks' time, Lynell met with Matt LePore again and presented him with her letter. Mr. LePore introduced her to the produce manager, Shane Andy. They set up a schedule and established a routine for the weekly grocery handoff.
And so a fruitful partnership was struck between a grocery company who genuinely cares about the communities it serves and the staff and volunteers at Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area in whose care the resident wildlife is entrusted. Every Friday morning a Soldiers Delight naturalist picks up a small box of leftover produce and brings it back to the animal residents at Soldiers Delight to enjoy and devour. And every week Wegman's demonstrates its generosity and commitment to conservation and the environment by providing this otherwise disposable nourishment to the rehabilitated animals in our care.
As for Lynell? She was a presented with a "Produce Pioneer" award made from a paper plate by staff naturalist Tabitha Aguirre at Soldiers Delight's annual volunteer appreciation luncheon in November, showing that this new produce partnership was truly a win-win-win for all.