Virginians can soon go nuts for state acorn collection program
As the fall season approaches, Mike Ortmeier is preparing to break out his broom, dustpan and new portable leaf blower to add to the nearly 8,000 pounds of acorns he’s collected for Virginia over the past 13 years.
The dedication shown by Ortmeier, an Arlington native and retiree, to the nuts, has earned him notoriety within the Virginia Department of Forestry, which operates an annual acorn collection program.
His acorn hauls, along with nuts from other native tree species collected by volunteers throughout the state, will be planted at the department’s Augusta Nursery Center to grow into seedlings.
The seedlings are then typically sold to landowners for reforestation purposes, providing numerous environmental benefits like decreasing carbon in the atmosphere, improving water quality and reducing temperatures in heat-stressed areas.
Augusta Nursery Center Assistant Manager Joshua McLaughlin said the program would also not be possible without volunteers like Ortmeier. He estimates that one-third — or approximately 1 million — of the seeds planted at the nursery last year came from the public. Donations also go toward starting seedlings that are then sold.
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