FOR and our partners of the Rappahannock River Roundtable work together to provide technical assistance and cost-share programs that leverage state, federal, and private grant funding to help install a variety conservation projects to help clean water. These projects advance Virginia’s Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) and include priority projects like livestock exclusion, riparian buffers, green infrastructure, urban forests, and more. 

We’re proud to report that these programs have been very successful–so successful, in fact, that we have begun to outgrow our supply chain. There is a growing demand for a diversity of quality native plants in Virginia. Our organization and partners cannot adequately source the desired plant material from local suppliers to meet the quantity, diversity, quality, and cost-effectiveness that is required for our regional programs. Our answer, the founding of the Rappahannock Conservation Nursery

This Nursery will provide a location for Friends of the Rappahannock and interested partners to propagate locally grown, native trees, shrubs, and perennial flowers for conservation projects throughout the Rappahannock River watershed. We anticipate growing and raising between 5,000 and 20,000 plants per year to offset our project’s demand for native plant material. This will include multiple species of tree seedlings traditionally not available at the Virginia Department of Forestry’s nursery. This will also include high value native perennial wildflowers like milkweed and other plants suitable for rain gardens, bioretention, and conservation landscaping projects. These plants will be available to local conservation partners for high priority conservation projects in the Rappahannock River watershed. 

Another priority for this effort is to foster environmental education for K-12 school programs as well as adult and continuing education. This nursery will be an outdoor classroom resource for school field trips as well as assisting with supporting in class lessons from partner staff on trees, forests, and student led propagation of seeds into trees. 

The project will also work with Virginia Cooperative Extension to support the launch of the brand new “Northern Piedmont Tree Stewards” chapter. This program will be based in Culpeper, VA and serve the surrounding counties of the Upper Rappahannock and Rapidan River watersheds not currently served by another Tree Steward chapter. 

There are many places that would meet the simple needs of a small nursery to grow a few thousand plants. We see the opportunity to make an investment and join the team at the George Washington Carver Center Agricultural Research Center as a way to build relationships with local partners, increase educational opportunities at the property, and provide a valuable resource for local conservation and landscaping partners working to improve the environment. We feel the proposed project would complement the existing uses and further the mission of the property. We look forward to working with all the excellent partners at the Carver Center, Culpeper County, and the Rappahannock River Roundtable to develop this nursery into a productive community resource. 

Written by Deputy Director Bryan Hofmann

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