I have worked intermittently at Ruppert Nurseries since 2013. As a crewmember, I have experienced almost everything there is to do in this business. I have mowed, sprayed, pruned, watered, staked, tied, dug, packaged, loaded, planted and have worked on various job sites. Though I have not attained the experience level of those in the upper echelon of the company, I feel that my time spent at Ruppert has allowed me to see the difficulties in running a successful nursery. I offer the question; Is there any product harder to produce than a tree?
Each tree available in the nursery is a culmination of countless manhours spent on careful planning, maintenance and production. Trees are harvested after growing in the nursery anywhere from two to twenty years. Professionals in this business must have the insight to invest in a product that will not be sold until several years in the future. Can you imagine having to predict what clothes will be trending five years down the line? Or preordering the ingredients for the specials at your restaurant three years in advance? I believe that this is a risk unique to this line of business, and I applaud the men and women at Ruppert responsible for this company’s growth and future direction; it is not a task to be taken lightly.
There have been two constants in my time at Ruppert Nurseries: trees and change. A handful of faces are familiar from when I started in 2013, but like many manual labor jobs, employee turnover is a constant battle. Every job at the farm and in the tree moving division is, for the most part, unique to this business. New employees must learn several different tasks at once during the busy seasons to keep pace with the demands of the farm. There is always work to be done; leaving little time to properly train and prepare new people for the challenges the nursery offers. Inexperience or a moment of inattention can ruin years of work in an instant. This is what I believe to be the greatest difficulty facing our company and why trees are the hardest thing to produce.
Imagine painting a masterpiece for twenty years. Every day you add another perfect brushstroke to your carefully planned portrait. Little by little your vision becomes reality until one day you can step back and say “my work is done.” Twenty years of perfect planning and execution are vividly expressed in front of your eyes. The time has come to complete your masterpiece and as you turn to grab the picture frame you bump your coffee cup, spilling your early morning caffeine all over the canvas. You would be pretty upset…right?
As a nursery, we are not solely judged on the health or beauty of our trees but also on the presentation of our finished package. A decade of work and attention all boils down to the 15 minutes it takes to dig, burlap, basket, tie, and load a tree. Years spent pruning and taking care of a tree can be wasted in a second of mishandling a machine or by a mower as it grazes the trunk; condemning a tree’s availability and sending it to the burn pile. Is there any product that’s harder to produce than a tree?
Working at Ruppert Nurseries is not for the faint of heart or for those who are easily discouraged; however, there are few things as beautiful as a successfully harvested or transplanted tree from our nursery. We face obstacles and challenges unique to our business, but we maintain the ability to produce masterpieces.
My time at Ruppert Nurseries has taught me that a tree should not be appreciated or measured for its height or the expanse of its seemingly infinite branches, but rather for the depth of its roots.