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Grant to rescue – Silverton nursery to use new seedling funds

A Drakes Crossing Nursery employee works with seedlings at the firm’s holdings in the Silverton hills. James Day
A Drakes Crossing Nursery employee works with seedlings at the firm’s holdings in the Silverton hills.      James Day

By James Day

A Silverton-area nursery has received a $540,000 state grant to help it grow seedlings needed for Oregon fire restoration efforts.

The funds from the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) will allow Drakes Crossing Nursery to expand its business into greenhouse plug production of seedlings and have more stock available for emergencies such as the state’s rash of recent fires.

“In the past 54 years, our nursery has been solely a bareroot operation,” said Savannah Barnes, office manager at Drakes Crossing. “Bareroot seedlings on average have a growing cycle of two years. This process produces a great tree but doesn’t allow us to respond to possible environmental needs. For example, when wildfires burned our local forests, we didn’t have a seedling crop large enough to cover the reforestation demand. 

“Since our crop production follows a two-year cycle, we couldn’t increase our current stock fast enough to help local foresters with replanting needs. This grant has allowed us to move into greenhouse plug production. We have used the funds to purchase and construct 12 greenhouses (still under construction) with the sole purpose of producing plug seedlings. A one-year, same year planting season will give us the advantage of helping increase production when the necessity arises.”

 

This aerial shot shows the new greenhouse complex that is taking shape on the nursery’s 240-acre property in the Silverton Hills. courtesy Drakes Crossing nursery
This aerial shot shows the new greenhouse complex that is taking shape on the nursery’s 240-acre property in the Silverton Hills.
courtesy Drakes Crossing nursery

 

The ODF has awarded $4.4 million in grants, ranging from $238,000 to $540,000 to ten Oregon nurseries. The bulk of the outlets are in the Willamette Valley, including Brooks Tree Farm in Salem, PRT Growing Services in Hubbard, Trillium Gardens in Eugene, Weyerhaeuser in Aurora and Turner and Kintigh Nursery in Springfield.

The funds came from allocations to the ODF from House Bill 5006, which aimed to respond to the devastating 2020 wildfires. In the wake of those fires, there were many barriers to reforesting, including shortages of money, labor, and for some smaller landowners appropriate tree seedlings. 

Nurseries are using the funds to invest in everything from adding irrigation to building new greenhouses and seedbed space as well as storage facilities for storing seedling trees. Funds can also go toward equipment, the cost of collecting or purchasing tree seeds and buying land on which to expand nursery facilities.

“These grants are increasing overall capacity across the state for whenever seedling demand rises,” said Astrea Strawn, ODF’s reforestation coordinator. Strawn said funds must be spent before the end of this summer. 

“This makes us optimistic that landowners, especially smaller ones, will have better access to seedlings. When they do, they can promptly reforest after future tree losses to keep Oregon’s working forests working for Oregonians,” she said.

Barnes said Drakes Crossing is “excited to move into this next avenue of growing plug seedlings. Not only will the grant allow us to help our customers in a more effective way, but it will also give us the opportunity to harvest trees in both fall and spring seasons. This is new to us. We haven’t seen a grant written that benefits local reforestation and Christmas tree industries.”

To qualify for a grant, a nursery had to have experience growing high-quality commercial conifer trees for reforestation in Oregon, including Douglas-fir, grand fir, noble fir, western red cedar, ponderosa pine and others.

Which dovetails just fine with Drakes Crossing, which offers a wide variety of reforestation and Christmas tree seedlings, Barnes said.

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