When Raven was 10 years old in 1975, her family moved to a home that had a wooded yard, backed up to more woods with lots of trails. She bought a wildflower book at the supermarket checkout stand and started to learn the names of plants.
Going to high school on the bus her eyes were focused on the roadsides where she would see spring and fall wildflowers to check off in her book. She distinctly remembers the butterfly weed in June and the asters in the fall.
Over the years, life took many different paths, but in 2005, Raven got her first digital camera. She decided to take a stroll down a country lane to find wildflowers to photograph. She found one particularly interesting plant, took photos, noted its location and hurried home to identify it. It turned out to be the native perennial blue vervain. She went back about six weeks later to collect some seeds and then planted them in a tray.
They didn’t come up until the following spring, but when they did she had way more that she thought would result from that sowing of seeds! She tried giving them away to all of the neighbors. Some curious folks accepted, others just assumed that they were just weeds.
One person suggested eBay, so Raven started an account, listed them, and to her surprise someone actually bid on them within hours. Raven was on her way to something transformational.
After learning to propagate about 20 species, Earth First Native Nursery, LLC. was born. Working on her back deck with greenhouse racks, she propagated plants, raised them in repurposed yogurt cups and shipped them to buyers on eBay.
She chose the Earth First name because she wanted to convey the earth-friendly practices that she used, the organic standards, the repurposed containers and the pure love of working with the local ecology. Part of this passion includes saving local genotypes from loss due to shrinking habitats, development and the encroachment of invasive plants.
Raven made a statement about a significant period of time during her life journey so far: “Living in a mobile home park for 30 years and being an avid backyard birder, I noticed during the housing boom when seldom seen species like scarlet tanagers would pass through our park looking for a new habitat. Acres of woodlands had been cleared for housing developments nearby and displaced many birds.
“The people buying the homes were landscaping with nonnative and often invasive plants. I wanted to make native plants available to people but realized that folks needed to know about them and why they were important so I started doing workshops and talking to whoever would listen on why they should use native plants.”
In 2014, Raven purchased a property where she could expand her native plant nursery to include shrubs and trees. It is and will remain a sanctuary for native plants, biodiversity and especially a habitat for the many species of frogs, birds and butterflies that reside there.
Raven’s stated mission is to combat habitat degradation and to protect wildlife, heightening awareness by promoting the use of native plants in the home garden. By offering hard-to-find native plants at reasonable prices, Raven strives to:
Replace native plants lost to sprawl and development.
Reduce the incentive to harvest wild plants, leading to their decline.
Provide food and shelter for local wildlife populations.
Educate the public about the benefits of using native plants to protect wildlife, preserve water resources and replace destructive invasive species plants.
Find out more about doing business with Raven Ahmed at her website: earthfirstnatives.com. She works with customers by appointment at the nursery; you can contact her for consultation or appointment by email at email@example.com or by calling or texting 609-287-5090.
Raven’s journey also continues at farmers markets, green festivals, educational events, etc. She continues to spread her enthusiasm and to advance the mission that began with curiosity about nature ... and a walk in the woods!
Go Green Galloway is a volunteer organization dedicated to reducing the carbon footprint of Galloway through the promotion of energy efficiency and conservation, environmental education and the implementation of sustainable practices. We always welcome new volunteer members. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Mary at 609-742-7076. Also be sure to like our Facebook page.