Colonnade Oaks Project blossoms at W&L

The project has grown 100 oak saplings this year, and has sold 85


Rachel Hicks, News Writer

Dash Dericks, ‘18, and Jesse Evans, ‘20, run a business of selling oak seedlings grown from nuts found on Washington and Lee University’s colonnade.

“The value of the proposition is that you have a living piece of the university—not just a t-shirt,” Evans said.

So far, the team—Evans is the marketing manager and Dericks is the grower—has sold 85 saplings for $55 a piece, and Dericks said he grew 100 this year.

The idea formed last year when Dericks happened across some acorns on his way to class in the Science Center, where he’s working on completing a Chemistry major.

“It was September, and all [of] the acorns had fallen on the ground on the sidewalk,” Dericks said. “I picked some of them up and was kind of looking at them.”

Dericks said he is into silviculture—the art of growing woody species. The passion, he attributes to spending his childhood wandering through forests in his home state, Indiana.

“When I was little I used to do these projects where I’d grow these saplings and give them to neighbors,” Dericks said.

Dericks moved his clothes out of his closet and set up a greenhouse in his closet in the Fiji fraternity house—just like he used to do back in Indiana.

“I had a big dresser where I kept all my clothes,” he said. “I had only like a couple blazers in [the closet].”

Some of Dericks’ friends expressed interest in wanting some of the trees because they were from the colonnade, so as a member of the Venture Club, the university’s entrepreneurial club, Dash started thinking business.

After presenting his idea to sell the colonnade oaks at Venture Club, Evans volunteered to help with the marketing side, and a partnership was formed.

“I had the skill set and the time to help him grow the business,” Evans said.

In order to avoid legal trouble with selling trees associated with the university and the Colonnade, a national landmark, the two asked the University Store for help.

“We eliminated all those issues by going through the University Store, because it’s through the university,” Dericks said. “They take [30 percent] of the profit, and everyone’s happy.”

Meg Beebe, assistant to the Director for Marketing and Business Affairs at the University Store, said the trees are available on the store’s website and there are a limited number in store.

“They come in a little [plastic] tube, and then we just kind wrap them in bubble wrap,” she said.

Beebe said the saplings in the store are kept in the back by a window, are watered twice a week, and taken to sit outside when the staff has time.

“Each tree is certifiably from the colonnade and they also get a growing guide from their purchase,” she said.

Dericks is graduating this year, but Evans said he will keep the marketing side of the business going for the next two years.

Dericks said he will manage the money but will rely on his friend, Beau Merhige, ‘20, to take over the growing.