Abra Morawiec, owner of Feisty Acres Farm in Jamesport, is a firm believer in giving back to the land that has so far made her first solo venture into farming a success.
And as a farmer, Morawiec, who raises Japanese quail for meat and eggs on a small plot of leased land at Biophelia Organic Farm, realizes just how dependent she and her flock are on the ecosystem.
Now, she hopes to launch a long-term program to repopulate native quail on the North Fork, a species that has been on the decline in recent years
“As a farmer, I understand the value of working the land and making a living off of the soil,” said Morawiec, who is the first certified organic quail farmer not only on Long Island, but on the entire East Coast. “In turn, it is just as valuable to protect and steward that soil and ecosystem.”
Morawiec has tasked herself with raising and releasing 300 to 500 Bobwhite quails, a native Long Island species which feasts on those pesky ticks, this year alone. She is calling the venture “Feisty Acres’ Bobwhite Quail Release Program” and benefits the quail population which she said has declined in recent years due to habitat loss.
Morawiec is hoping that this is not a one-time event as she plans to raise and release Bobwhites year after year in hope of eventually repopulating the species.
“A one-time project is not how you restore native populations of anything,” she said. “It’s something you have to dedicate yourself to for the long term.”
While Morawiec is dedicated to funding the program for years to come through workshops, sponsorship and putting Feisty Acres’ profits toward the brood each season, she’s turned to crowdfunding to get the initiative off the ground. She created a Kickstarter campaign and needs to raise $2,500 by April 1, as Kickstarter only releases funds to the campaign creator if the entire financial goal is met.
The funds will go toward the purchase of a surrogator, a piece of equipment that will house baby Bobwhite quail with as little human interaction as possible. Morawiec’s only contact with the quail will be to adjust the water levels in the housing unit as they grow. And for that, she will wear camouflage clothing and use scent blockers.
Deer and dog ticks are a major source of food for the birds, Morawiec said, and Bobwhites also eat the seeds of many noxious weeds like rag and chickweed. If a healthy population of Bobwhite quail were to thrive on the North Fork, the region could also see an increase in hawks and foxes, as they prey on the small bird, she said.
“There are so many reasons to bring back declining native species,” said Mary Morgan, of Orient, a past president of Slow Food East End and a supporter of the program. “The delightful chirping quail is so much a part of my childhood memories. If she [Morawiec] can raise the funds she will be able to release over 300 Bobwhite Quail into local preserves—bringing back our native quail which keep tick populations in check, and are a vital part of our local ecosystem.”
Morawiec plans to release the first herd of Bobwhite quail right on the Biophelia property, which is part of over 200 acres of preserved farmland on Manor Lane in Jamesport. She is working with officials at local nature preserves like Shelter Island’s Mashomack Preserve and private landowners for future releases.
For more information about Feisty Acres’ Bobwhite Quail Release Program, or to donate to the cause, visit her Kickstarter project here.