Seasons of Growth – A look back at the past 6 months at Oxbow

In the soggy winter and early spring months, most of our fields are resting and much (but certainly not all) of the work moves indoors; but that doesn’t mean that we slow down our pace! We use that time for planning, building and revising programs, continuing to conduct research and tend to dormant plants, and even complete some restoration work. This past season, in particular, has been one of great growth and change for Oxbow Farm & Conservation Center. Here are some of the key initiatives we’ve been focusing on over the past 6 months:

Providing outdoor environmental education to children from lower income schools

Since September of 2017, Oxbow has grown our partnership with Frank Wagner Elementary School, a local high-needs school where 63% of the students receive free or reduced-price lunches. This school year, Oxbow has facilitated nine environmental education encounters for all 100 Kindergartners, from in-class lessons on soil to on-farm field trips to learn about the habitats of river animals. The Frank Wagner first graders who participated in last year’s pilot program have also received free in-class farm based environmental education lessons and a scholarship to return to Oxbow this spring. With the help of donations and federal grant support, we were able to provided free lessons and field trips, and even cover bus fees so that more students can come to Oxbow.

Increasing the capacity of Washington nurseries to grow native plants

In our Native Plant Nursery, we’re helping to build the careers of future land stewards and native plant enthusiasts by hosting four interns this season. All of the interns are currently studying horticulture or are interested in starting their own nurseries. This year the Native Plant Nursery will also submit propagation protocols for growing six native plant species from seed to a national protocol database.

Nursery manager Bridget McNassar is writing a 6-part series for the WA state native plant society journal, Douglasia, which details the complex and fascinating process of growing natives from seed. The journal is read by a wide range of native plant enthusiasts.

Oxbow’s Conservation team also plans to take 1-2 Oxbow Oregon State University Fellows under their wing this year, integrating them into several ongoing conservation projects. In the first year, the Fellow will learn about the conservation and natural resource issues in the Snoqualmie Valley and the broader region, as well as understand the skills and approaches used by our conservation team. They will also have an opportunity to dig into other areas of Oxbow’s work in the Native Plant Nursery and on the Kids’ Farm teaching place-based environmental education. In the second year of the fellowship, the students will develop and pursue their own project back at OSU, still tied closely to Oxbow’s conservation work.

Our Conservation team is also connecting to the public through a citizen science bird monitoring project in collaboration Puget Sound Bird Observatory. Our Conservation and Education teams are also co-collaborating with Redmond High School teacher (and former Oxbow farm intern) Macy Zwanzig and her students to complete a hydrology study project. 

We can’t wait to share what the next six months hold! We sincerely thank our donors, volunteers, community partners, and hardworking staff for helping us kick off the new season with a bang.