Our home for the next few months is the New Kent Forestry Center, a few miles outside the small town of Providence Forge, Virginia. Providence Forge is located about halfway between Richmond and Williamsburg on US 60.
The New Kent Forestry Center is administered by the Virginia Department of Forestry has hosted a successful volunteer workamper program since 1991. We originally learned of this program through Workamper News, an organization which provides support, education and networking for full time RVers and employers. Workamper News publishes a monthly magazine for its members with informational articles and job listings located throughout the country. You can find out more about Workamper News at www.workamper.com
The Forestry Center provides a full hook-up campsite with 50 amp electric, water and sewer along with free laundry facilities in exchange for 10 hours of volunteer labor per person. There are a total of 6 campsites in the Volunteer Campground, which is situated in a quiet, peaceful pine grove more than one mile from the main entrance. The view out of our front window is lush, green and full of songbirds. We took a drive down to take a look at the Forestry Center and meet the supervisor of the volunteer program when we were in Virginia for the birth of our grandson in January and were instantly enthused by the easygoing, flexible nature of Jeff, our supervisor. We are confident this will be an enjoyable summer and a positive beginning to our career as workampers.
When we arrived last week there were two other campsites already occupied. The first is a solo male workamper, living in a travel trailer and the second a married couple about our age in a diesel motorhome. The crew is very friendly and seems very cooperative and willing to help each other out. Jeff expects two other volunteer couples to arrive at some point during the summer. With over 400 acres of property and several large pine orchards to maintain the guys should expect most of their time to be spent sitting on a mower. The ladies will assist the office staff with cleaning, filing and various other projects.
The Forestry Center began in the 1952 after serving many years as a quail breeding facility for Virginia Fish and Game. 428 acres along the Chickahominy River were transferred to the Forestry Department and the land was transformed into a tree seedling nursery producing mostly loblolly pine seedlings for reforestation. At its peak, the New Kent Forestry Center produced over 55 million loblolly pine seedlings per year. The seedling nursery was phased out around 2004.
With research and testing started in the late 1950’s the emphasis at New Kent shifted to tree improvement and the production of high quality loblolly seed harvested from pine cones. The research and improvement rely heavily on genetic testing and selection, controlled pollination, grafting and cloning. Research is also being done here in the effort to revive the American chestnut and native Virginia longleaf pine.
The Forestry Center also serves as a conference center and an educational center for area school groups. It has several nature trails through the surrounding forests, farmland and cypress swamps that we are looking forward to exploring through the summer.
The fact sheet on the New Kent Forestry Center that was given to us also mentions the possible historic significance of this property; “Remember Pocahontas? She was a member of the Chickahominy Indian Tribe. There are still several thousand Chickahominy Indians living in the area today. No one is really sure where Pocahontas saved Captain John Smith from certain death, but it is amusing to think that it very well could have been right there at the campground where you are staying. Pleasant dreams.”
Thanks for coming along.