State forestry department nurseries grow millions of seedlings for landowners, reforestation

The Virginia Department of Forestry’s seedling nurseries in Augusta and Southampton counties produce millions of tiny trees for landowners, foresters and conservationists.

The Garland Gray Forestry Center in Courtland yields 32 million pine seedlings annually for landowners throughout Virginia and beyond. The Augusta Forestry Center grows, processes and ships a popular variety of hardwood seedlings, providing dozens of species to beautify landscapes and serve landowners.

The VDOF seedling program has been active for more than a century, restoring millions of acres of Virginia forestland. Both nurseries are state entities that are entirely self-funded and employ dozens of part-time and seasonal workers.

The Garland Gray Center was built in 1984 specifically to grow loblolly and some longleaf pine. It is named for the late Sen. Garland Gray, a lumberman from the area.

Josh Bennicoff, the center’s manager, said the 80 acres of baby loblolly are the future of Virginia’s woods. Landowners intent on reforestation typically plant about 500 trees per acre.

“I have about 10 planting contractors who buy several million each, but we sell to individual landowners also,” Bennicoff said. “We always sell out of our seedlings every year. And what we produce in a year will cover about 60,000 acres.”

Planted-pine rotation for logging purposes is somewhere between 15 and 50 years. However, that timeline is shortened for pulp and chip producers, who can get two plantings in a similar timeframe.

Augusta Forestry Center manager Josh McLaughlin said nearly 40 species of Virginia hardwoods and softwoods are grown in seedbeds covering 100 acres. This site handles the VDOF’s delivery program, which offers tree seedlings, conservation specialty packs and seed mixtures.

Customers can browse inventory and submit orders at buyvatrees.com.

         
 

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