Barborinas Family Fund Grant Program

Jim and Annie Barborinas are legends in the nursery industry, having worked throughout the Puget Sound Region with large and small communities, landscape architects, engineers, developers, housing authorities, school districts and private citizens on many urban forest issues. Jim, Annie and their family own and operate Urban Forest Nursery, a highly regarded 32-acre wholesale tree nursery in Washington’s Skagit Valley region, specializing in growing high quality street and landscape trees. Their trees are specifically selected and grown for characteristics that complement the limited planting spaces and adverse conditions typical of urban planting sites today. Through their consulting business, as well as their long history of producing street and landscape trees in fabric growbags for the wholesale industry, they have seen the need to improve production techniques for improved root growth and establishment.

As a direct result of their nursery experiences and in testimony to their commitment to sound tree science, Jim and Annie founded and were the principal funders (with support from the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture) of the Barborinas Family Fund, which will award grants for research focused on tree production, planting and transplanting techniques, and the improvement of tree varieties for urban conditions, to focus on root science.

Mechanical root manipulation that includes cutting, slicing, pulling and spreading roots to encourage and release root growth beyond the original root-ball is critical to administer to defective root-balls, but too often does not take place, contributing to the demise of the tree. This research should focus on developing root systems and trees that are planting ready at the time of transfer to the landscape installation industry and not dependent on root-ball corrections so they can grow properly and become well established long loved, mature trees.

The focus of the Jim and Annie Barborinas Fund is to study the processes of the nursery industry with the goal to research how to create a root system and above ground structure of the tree that is planting ready and require no additional work on the part of the installer to manipulate the roots or stem structure. Grants should study the production of root and stem system from the first steps of seedlings, tissue culture, and the various methods of cultivar propagation to liner production and onto final tree production that lead to the sale and transfer of the tree to the landscape installation industry. This includes the various parts of the transfer process of including re-wholesale ‘nurseries’, and the various root package options including: B&B, containers, fabric growbags, tree spade, bareroot root, gravel bed and other root packages that are part of the production and transfer of trees from the nursery industry to the landscape installation industry.

The grants may also support research to expand the diversity of different tree species and cultivars, studying issues with hard to propagate, produce and establish trees, or increasing industry acceptance of new species by identifying and resolving, through research, the roadblocks to acceptance.

Award amount: up to $10,000 (minimum $5,000).

Note: The 2024 Barborinas Family Fund Grant will be focused on areas of inquiry as the following (note: this list is not all-inclusive):

  • To develop and improve plant root-ball production and development methods, from seedling, to transplant, to liner, to final root-package such that the tree requires no additional root ball correction at the time of transfer to the landscape installation industry.
  • To develop and improve root health, growth, and density to improve establishment success. This might include early root treatment, unique production methods.

TREE Fund welcomes research proposals and applications from a wide range of academic and technical disciplines, of both a qualitative and a quantitative nature. TREE Fund does not fund the following types of projects, and will not accept applications for such work:

  • Grants to individuals;
  • Projects that are primarily municipal tree surveys or assessments;
  • Tree planting programs;
  • Studies of individual tree species for the primary purpose of agricultural or timber/forest planting yield;
  • Commercial tree- or soil-related product testing primarily for the benefit of the company that manufactures the product.


The first step to apply for this grant is to send an email containing a brief Letter of Inquiry (LOI) of no more than 100 words describing your project title and concept to between January 15 and March 1, 2024. Your LOI must clearly identify the Principal Investigator and Institution who will be contracted for the work should your application be approved.

TREE Fund will evaluate whether your LOI concept meets all of our application criteria and is deemed to have a reasonable possibility of success given the year’s research priorities. If and only if your LOI is approved, TREE Fund will send you a numbered application form for your use. You may not apply without such a numbered application form, and the number of applications so provided each grant making cycle may be limited. TREE Fund determinations on whether an LOI meets the application criteria are final and not negotiable. Your completed application will only be accepted and reviewed between January 15 to March 15, 2024.

Upon completion of this application form, you will save a Word version for your records, then create a PDF version of the completed document with title in the format “PI Surname, Grant Program, Application Number” (e.g. “Smith, Barborinas, #19-023”), and email it as an attachment to with a PDF of PI and Co-PI (if applicable) CVs. Staff will confirm receipt of your application at that time.

In addition to contact and CV information for the PI, Co-PI(s), and any student assistants, applicants will need the following information to complete the form. Note well that word count limits are firm and absolute. Exceeding word counts may result in your application being rejected before review. Applicants should compose their text in Word or related systems that allow counts to be confirmed before they are placed in the application form.

Project Description:

  • Overall Project Summary, Including Overarching Goals (400 Words Maximum): A brief statement of the current issue/problem and its impact on arboriculture, urban forestry, and the professions that are involved with researching, planning, designing, growing, planting, managing and/or otherwise maintaining urban trees; and goals of the proposed research.
  • Description of Measurable Outputs/Outcomes (250 Words Maximum): Include a list of the tangible outputs (publications, extension/outreach materials, posters, etc.) from this project and identify up to five measurable outcomes (real changes in day-to-day urban forest design or management) that are expected to result from work proposed.
  • Current Knowledge/Past Research in Project Area (1,000 Words Maximum, excluding in-text literature citations as described at the end of this section): Description of what is known about the problem/project area and with reference to previous attempts to address it where appropriate; a review of literature and past experiences of the investigative team.
  • Project Work Plan (1,500 Words Maximum): Clearly define the scope of the work to be performed, including hypotheses, design, methodology and analyses. Any anticipated proprietary elements of proposed research must be identified clearly in the initial application. Should applications fail to make such declarations, TREE Fund reserves the right to negotiate royalties from patents, sales, copyrights, or other commercial results of funded research.
  • Dissemination Plans (300 Words Maximum): A brief description of activities and outlets used to share the results of this project. Be sure communications with both academic and practitioner communities are addressed. It is TREE Fund’s explicit desire that research findings eventually be freely and widely available to any and all parties who may benefit from the author’s work. At the same time, TREE Fund recognizes the importance of academic and professional journal publications and will work with recipients to ensure that findings are disseminated in a manner that is cognizant of all parties’ schedules and needs.
  • Literature Cited: It may be useful to refer reviewers to previous work published elsewhere. In such cases, cite appropriate works in your text in “Author(s), year” format (e.g. “Smith, 2014” or “Jones, 2003”) and then list those citations alphabetically by first author’s last name as indicated in the following link from the American Phytopathological Society:

Budget Elements, Including:

  • Institutional Compensation, Stipends and Benefits
  • Travel and Transportation
  • Equipment (e.g. Vehicles, Growth Chambers, Etc.)
  • Other Materials and Supplies (e.g. Paper, Ink, Etc.)
  • Contract Labor (Consultants, Speakers, Etc.)
  • Institutional Overhead (Maximum 10%)
  • Other/Miscellaneous
  • Cash or In-Kind Funding from Other Sources (Minimum 10%; unrecovered institutional overhead may be applied to meet this minimum)


Staff will screen all applications for applicant eligibility, adherence to submission directions (including word counts), alignment with the TREE Fund mission, and compliance with minimum requirements.  Proposals meeting these criteria are then forwarded to the TREE Fund’s Research and Education Committee for a more thorough and competitive evaluation.  Prospective applicants can be sure that reviewers will place highest emphasis on:

  • Prior record of accomplishment by the investigative team.  (Scientists early in their research careers may wish to include others with more research experience as active co-investigators or advisors)
  • Potential contribution of the project to the arboricultural industry.
  • Approach, including statement of hypotheses and experimental design
  • Dissemination plan to the scientific community and to tree care professionals

TREE Fund does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, gender, sexual orientation, disability or national or ethnic origin. Current trustees of TREE Fund or any member of the family of any such trustee are ineligible to receive grants from TREE Fund.


Recommendations on grant awards will be presented by the Research Committee to the TREE Fund Board of Trustees for approval in May 2022, and grant recipient(s) will be notified in writing within one month of Trustee approval. A Grant Agreement form that includes a payment and reporting schedule will be provided with award notification. It must be completed within one month of notification, and returned to TREE Fund with all required supporting documentation.

Applicants are most strongly encouraged to review the sample Grant Agreement form (which can be viewed here) with their employers’ financial or grant management offices prior to submitting an application, to ensure that the Agreement forms can be signed expeditiously upon receipt. Potential difficulties with Agreement terms that are identified during the application process may be considered and negotiated more favorably than those presented after the grant award process.


It is TREE Fund’s explicit desire that research findings eventually be freely and widely available to any and all parties who may benefit from the author’s work. At the same time, TREE Fund recognizes the importance of academic and professional journal publications and will work with grant recipients to ensure that findings are disseminated in a manner that is cognizant of all parties’ schedules and needs. Recipients should inform TREE Fund when funded research findings are published or presented at conferences so that these accomplishments can be widely publicized. Recipients should also recognize the support provided by TREE Fund in their articles or presentations related to the funded project. Recipients are strongly encouraged to publish findings to relevant professional journals, i.e. Arboriculture and Urban Forestry, Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, Arboricultural Journal, Trees: Structure and Function, Journal of Horticultural Science and Biotechnology, Plant Pathology, Hortscience, Horticultural Science, Sustainable Development, Landscape and Urban Planning, Journal of Urban Health, Environment and Urbanization, Urban Ecosystems, etc.