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Image by Rob Mulally

About Us

Nurture Natives is a youth-led organization dedicated to empowering youth through environmental initiatives to enhance native biodiversity. The embodiment of youthful energy, Nurture Natives strives to create an environment of hope and empowerment for the next generation. Join us as we inspire change, empower youth, and protect native ecosystems and resources, one plant at a time.



The Beginning: Attending the Summit

In March 2022, Esther Bonney and Samantha Rutherford were selected to attend the National 4-H Youth Summit on Agriscience. There, we learned about the science of agriculture, ag-related social and environmental issues, and the future of sustainable ag. Inspired, our team returned to Southern Maryland to find and address an agricultural issue in our community.


Identifying and Addressing the Issue

Our team designed Nurture Natives to address a prevalent agricultural issue in our community: invasive plant species. Invasive plants choke out native species and are a major cause of crop loss and food insecurity. In the U.S. alone, invasive species cause $40 billion worth of production losses to crops and forests per year. 

Image by Lauren Kan


A Youth-Led Environmental Initiative

Nurture Natives is dedicated to empowering youth through environmental initiatives, with an emphasis on planting native trees to increase biodiversity. Since its founding, Nurture Natives has been featured on the National 4-H and University of Maryland Extension websites, won a Mini Grant, and was selected by the National 4-H Council as one of two projects nationwide to receive the Scale for Success Award.

Image by Casey Horner

Our Vision

Nurture Natives has two core objectives:

1) Empower youth. We aim to cultivate an environment in which young individuals can ignite their passions, find their voices, and drive positive change. We strive to convince every youth of their inimitable purpose and impact.

2) Increase biodiversity. Our team is passionately working to raise biodiversity levels across the East Coast by supporting local nurseries and farmers and educating communities on native species, pollinators, and sustainable agriculture.

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Inspiring Environmental Action

An integral component of Nurture Natives is education and outreach. Our team travels across Maryland to educate community members of all ages about biodiversity, native species, pollinators, and sustainable agriculture, as well as the dangers of invasive horticulture. Our programs inspire youth to ignite their passion and drive change.


The Nurture Natives Guide

In July 2022, our team designed and published Nurture Natives: A Guide to Invasive Species and Their Native Look-Alikes. Our guide is designed to help individuals identify invasive species and select suitable native alternatives for their landscapes. We are currently distributing hundreds of our guides to nurseries across Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia, West Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.

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The First Annual Nurture Natives Giveaway

On October 14, 2022, our team held the first annual Nurture Natives Giveaway in La Plata, MD. We distributed 150 native trees and shrubs, led games, crafts, and activities focused on biodiversity and pollinators, and hosted a honey-tasting station. We also invited a local farmer to discuss invasive species' harmful impacts on agriculture.


Civic Engagement and  Advocacy

Our team has met with professionals from the Alice Ferguson Foundation, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Southern Maryland Audobon Society, and the College of Southern Maryland, among others. In January 2023, we were invited to speak to dozens of community leaders in the Charles County Rotary Club, MD. We also had the exciting opportunity to discuss Nurture Natives with Wes Moore and Aruna Miller, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Maryland.



Expanding: Maryland Day

On April 29, 2023, Nurture Natives partnered as a campus vendor with the University of Maryland, College Park, for Maryland Day 2023. We ran games, crafts, activities, and an information table. Master Gardeners from across Maryland joined us in giving away 400 native trees in just 2.5 hours.


Petitioning Against Invasive Species

Our team is passionately working to engage youth in the protection of native species. Our success at Maryland Day is only the beginning. We are working with legislators to pass a law prohibiting the propagation, importation, selling, and purchasing of the Callery pear tree (Pyrus calleryana) in Maryland.



The Future

Nurture Natives is a youth-led organization dedicated to empowering youth through environmental initiatives, with a focus on planting native trees to increase biodiversity. As Nurture Natives grows, our resolve remains resolute: to inspire, educate, and advocate for a future in which our youth and environment thrive.

Let’s Work Together

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