One Year of the Virginia Native Seed Pilot Project


We are one year into our Virginia Native Seed Pilot Project, and so much has already been accomplished! Our Native Seed Project Coordinator Isaac Matlock has been busy growing plugs, assisting participating farmers, and deepening connections with partners. We caught him between site visits for an update:

1. What were you excited to accomplish over the summer?

IM: We were mostly planning for the fall and focusing on keeping the plants in the greenhouse alive. There were a few species that hadn’t been collected last year and these were picked up by a few volunteers this summer. It was great to officially collect all 18 species for the project. Eastern Smooth Beardtongue (Penstemon laevigatus) proved difficult to obtain and I almost gave up on collecting it this year. (Thank you Center for Urban Habitats! for sharing seeds with us!)

We also finished planting our native seed harvest demonstration plot here at Clifton. This will give us a space to start our own commercial seed production and also serve as an example to prospective farmers.

2. It’s seed collection season again. What is different about this year compared to last year?

IM: This year I am focused less on the volume of seed collected and more on the diversity of populations collected from. Last year we collected a great amount of seed but were limited in the areas of Virginia that we collected from. I’d like to make up for that and visit more areas around the state. This way we can maximize the genetic diversity in our seeds.

3. How are the seed farmers progressing? 

IM: Everyone is in a slightly different stage. Some people have seeds ready to harvest this year, some just planted this fall, but all are on track to meet the project objectives!

Farmers planting their first plot of native, local ecotype plants!

Looking back on what the Clifton greenhouse looked like at the beginning of the project…

And what the Clifton greenhouse looked like at the height of summer growing!