More than just a Meadow - One Woman’s Path to Preservation


 Valerie Montecalvo enjoying the pollinator meadow at her Spy Hill property in Middletown.

Valerie Montecalvo enjoying the pollinator meadow at her Spy Hill property in Middletown.

It was indeed “love at first sight” that made Valerie and her family “tie the knot” with the 22-acre Spy Hill property in Middletown. Growing up in the urban area of Middlesex County, Valerie Montecalvo, the Founder of Bayshore Recycling Corp, has always longed for a more bucolic setting although back then she didn’t know she would ever buy a farm.  

The Montecalvo family owns and operates the largest industrial recycling facility on the East Coast and they are no strangers to the importance of sustainability and environmental protection.  Valerie points out, “When I decided that I wanted acreage, I started looking for properties that would always hold their charms and barely change--thereby creating a legacy farm property for generations to come.” The location of Spy Hill, next door to the Scudder Preserve with 91 acres of permanently preserved land, made it the perfect match.

Not only Valerie’s childhood, but a lifetime of experiences such as operating Bayshore Recycling and serving as a Trustee for Monmouth Conservation Foundation, moved her to purchase Spy Hill and transform the land into a native plant meadow. “The property needed a lot of work when we purchased it and we could have built three houses and cut it all up, but we didn’t want this to be another development or all green lawn.”

 Two of the bee hives situated next to the meadow.

Two of the bee hives situated next to the meadow.

Valerie understood what we know all too well. Development and overly manicured lawns are quickly replacing meadows with their benefits and breathtaking beauty. While meadows provide food and shelter for pollinators, lawn herbicides and over use of fertilizers threaten our open spaces and the busy bees which perpetuate floral growth and provide attractive habitats for animals and other insects. When meadows disappear, so do the pollinators as well as other beneficial insects, bats, birds and so much of Monmouth’s natural splendor.

In her heart, Valerie knew that Spy Hill could be her land of plenty. Though overrun with invasive plants, her vision was to transform the already open fields into native plant meadows, serving as a beautiful buzzing habitat pollinators and other wildlife could call home.

 Some of the beautiful native flowers and grasses growing in the meadow this fall.

Some of the beautiful native flowers and grasses growing in the meadow this fall.

To give Spy Hill its much-needed makeover, Valerie enlisted Lorette Cheswick of Long Note Farm who specializes in establishing pollinator meadows. Over the past year, Valerie, Lorette, and the Montecalvo family have transformed part of the property into a 2.6 acre pollinator meadow with an array different native grass and an abundance of flowers. To bring the pollinator meadow into complete harmony, beehives were established, growing the colony from 3,000 to 25,000 bees in just the past year.

No doubt, establishing a meadow requires patience and perseverance. Looking back at the weeks of heavy machinery work to remove the invasive plants, Valerie admits, “conservation takes time.” In the end though, Spy Hill is the gold-star example of promise and conservation in Monmouth.

Beyond pollination, Valerie finds a special peace and tranquility in Spy Hill. “I sit there and meditate, giving thanks for all my blessings which really helps with the balancing of all of life’s obstacles” Valerie shared.  “It was that commitment to taking time to enjoy the land that helped me to understand the role nature plays in healing our mind, body, and soul.”

Like so many of us, Spy Hill is a work in progress. As Valerie makes clear, “This transformation into a meadow is like fostering a little world and filling it with grasses, flowers, bees, and so many other insects – it’s all about coexisting with nature.”

For more information about pollinator plants and creating meadows, contact our office at (732) 671-7000 or email abrockwell@monmouthconservation.org.