WNC-Grown Willow for Sustainable Caskets
Grant Award: $8,000
After planting two rows of willow for erosion control as part of her 2019 AgOptions grant, Sarah began to research uses for willow rods and discovered woven willow caskets used in green burials. She began producing and selling willow caskets in 2021. With few commercial willow growers in the United States, Sarah needs to establish her own willow stand to grow rods to meet her profit goals.
Sarah has planted a ¼ acre stand of willow this year and plans to expand to ½ acre next year. She used her grant money to pay for willow cuttings and a flail mower attachment for the BCS walk-behind tractor she bought with her 2019 grant. She will also pay for materials and labor for site preparation, soil amendments, weed barriers, and irrigation. The established willow stand will be a place her customers can meet and walk to observe the materials she will use to weave the casket.
Sarah makes caskets to order and she also works with a conservation cemetery near Durham, NC that plans to keep her caskets in stock. Additionally, she also invites customers to her workshop to help design and weave their own caskets. This experience has proven to be very moving for many of Sarah’s workshop participants, so much so that they have worked to start a fund that will provide infant and child caskets for free and also provide cash assistance for lower income people that ordinarily would not be able to afford her fees.