Eastern Rhode Island Conservation District Hosts First-Ever Earth Day Seedling Sale with Help of Friends of NACD District Grant

By Sara Churgin, District Manager

The Eastern Rhode Island Conservation District (ERICD), a 2020 Friends of NACD District Grants Program awardee, held its first-ever Earth Day Seedling Sale in April 2021. The sale helped educate community members about the benefits of planting trees and provided residents with an opportunity to purchase tree seedlings to plant at their homes.

“The planting of trees is one of the biggest and most inexpensive ways of taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to tackle the climate crisis,” says Sara Churgin, ERICD district manager. Planting trees beautifies gardens, provides food and shelter for wildlife, and stabilizes areas at risk for erosion. Trees even help local farmers. “Incorporating more native plants into your home landscape helps attract pollinators that increase crop yields as well as insect predators that reduce costs for pest management,” explains Nancy Parker Wilson, an ERICD board member and site host for the sale.

ERICD selected eight plant varieties that are known to grow well in the area. They included a mix of primarily native plants and a couple of non-invasive species. Species for sale included: Colorado Blue Spruce, Eastern White Pine, Scotch Pine, Arrowwood, Winterberry, American Elderberry, Spicebush and Butterfly Milkweed.

An ordering system was set up online through Shopify to allow shoppers to pre-order their seedlings for pickup at the sale. Seedlings were sold in bundles of five, providing a financially accessible way for residents to include trees in their gardens, while also helping the environment.

Promotion for the sale was done virtually through social media and email newsletters, as well as press releases, radio interviews and printed rack cards distributed around town and at the local farmers market. Partner organizations generously agreed to help spread the message through their own outlets. This level of partnership is vital to the success of ERICD.

The success of the promotion strategy was obvious in the nearly sold-out inventory. Nearly all of the seedlings were pre-sold, leaving some available for purchase the day of the sale. In addition to the sale of the seedlings, the promotion strategy also met the goal of educating the public about the importance of planting native plants.

Vital to the project were volunteers. Volunteers spent hours meticulously dividing and bundling seedlings into individual orders and keeping the seedlings alive for the sale. On the day of the event, volunteers sorted the orders and created a no-contact pickup system for customers. The success of the event was improved by its location at a local vineyard owned by Wilson. The idyllic locale perfectly set the tone for the environmental message that was being spread.

ERICD plans to continue the Seedling Sale next year, bigger and better! Though not a big fundraiser for the organization this year after COVID-19 (coronavirus) forced ERICD to reschedule the sale, the goodwill messaging of the event is worth the time and effort.

Want to help conservation districts fund impactful projects like this one? Become a Friend of NACD!

Sara Churgin is the Eastern Rhode Island Conservation District’s district manager and can be reached at schurgin.ericd[at]

Tags: Friends of NACD

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