The Big Plant graphic

If you’re interested in the environment or think yourself a plant lover, you’re probably concerned about climate change. What do you do if you’re not sure how to take action? Thankfully, there’s an event coming up for you. On Saturday, March 30, the Big Plant will gather like-minded individuals seeking to make a difference in the area. The goal is to plant 4,000 to 5,000 trees in three different locations around Blacksburg.

Ibrahim Mohamed, the architect of the Big Plant, was inspired by the Big Event, an annual day of service run by students.

“I had the idea (for the Big Plant) less than a year ago, when they were getting ready for the Big Event,” Mohamed said. “What if we had something like that, but for planting trees instead?”

Mohamed, who serves as the campaign coordinator for the Environmental Coalition, was interested in environmentalism and learned more about trees through a job working with a local arborist. Like many people, he was concerned about climate change and decided to take action.

In order to obtain land on which to plant, Mohamed worked with the Stroubles Creek Coalition, which works to improve the condition of Stroubles Creek, along with the New River Land Trust, a local nonprofit and environmental conservation organization. The New River Junction, along with Paris Mountain Farm and Stroubles Creek, will serve as the three locations for the Big Plant.

While trying to get sponsors for the event, Mohamed appealed to businesses in Blacksburg. Despite having no experience with fundraising, his approach worked.

“I went to local businesses downtown, being like, ‘We want to do a new event for planting trees. Would you be willing to sponsor it?’” Mohamed said.

Many establishments, such as Gillie’s, Bollo's Cafe, InBalance Yoga and Baseline Solar, among others, provided the necessary funding to get the Big Plant off the ground. The New River Land Trust is another sponsor of the event, along with Betty Hahn, the daughter of Virginia Tech’s 11th president, T. Marshall Hahn. Additionally, Mohamed also approached Virginia Tech for funding. The University is responsible for providing the money to buy shovels and seeds.

Only native trees will be planted in the three locations.

“At Stroubles Creek, we have black willow cuttings, which are just branches cut from a black willow tree,” Mohamed said.

The black willow cuttings make for easy planting, as they can be simply inserted into the stream bed.

“It won’t take any digging, any mulch, any water, anything. You just plug them in,” Mohamed said.

At the second site, Paris Mountain Farm, seedlings and shovels will be used, and the trees planted will be species local to the area, such as black cherry and white pine.

Should the Big Plant be a success, Mohamed hopes to make it an annual event. And, ideally, the day could inspire others to do something similar.

“I’m hoping it’ll bring awareness to the issue of climate change, inspire people, get people thinking about how valuable trees are,” Mohamed said. “Maybe other universities will take a look at what we’ve done here and try to do big tree planting events of their own.”

There is a serious cause behind the Big Plant event.   

“Climate change is the number one priority in the world right now. I think that’s where all the energy and attention should be put for the time being,” Mohamed said. “And with trees, with all this crazy weather, you want to put them in now so they’ll at least have a fighting chance as things get worse.”

Though he only became interested in environmentalism within the past two years, he recognizes the urgency associated with the movement.

“Hearing about the UN report, about how there’s 10 to 12 years where we have to cut all carbon emissions in half — that just kind of lit me up,” Mohamed said. “I was like, ‘I’m just going to try to do something about this.’ Something where I can look and say, ‘I did something.’”

The Big Plant will begin on the Drillfield at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 30. Food and refreshments will be served. Mohamed recommends that while it is possible to show up to the event and register on the day of, those who want to participate should pre-register here.

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