Where, when and how did The Gardener’s Friend Brand begin?
In order to share the story of our brand “The Gardener’s Friend” I need to tell you who we are and how we got here. This is the story of our lives.
“In The Beginning”…. :) Let me start by saying it has been 50 years since this journey began. In May of 1969 I graduated from McGill University with a “Bachelors of Science in Agriculture” (BScAgr). Seems like a long time ago and yet it seems like yesterday! (This fall we are holding our 50th anniversary of our Class of ’69).
For the first 10 years after graduating I worked as an Agricultural Representative (County Agent) for the Province of Nova Scotia. During that time I married my sweetheart, Nancy and we soon were blessed with two amazing daughters, Sally and Cathy. And now, five grandchildren!
But my deep love and life goal was to return to the farm I grew up on in The Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia and start farming! This came to pass in 1980 when my Mum and Dad decided to retire and Nancy and I “Bought the Farm”…in a good way!
My core belief in life has been and still is “To Be the Best” at whatever we do. And by this I mean simply, to be our own personal best, not in competition with anyone else.
Our farm operation consisted of a good but small dairy herd and about 20 acres of fruit orchard. We worked hard as do most farm families and in 5 years we achieve the top production for our dairy herd and broke all records for milk production per cow with our aggressive breeding and quality forage production regime. These were good times and we were young and ambitious!
Our children grew up knowing how to work and the value of our $’s, lessons which have lasted a lifetime.
On July 31st 1985 in minutes, all of our hard work and livelihood when up in smoke when our dairy barn caught fire in an electrical short. I remember that day like yesterday…it was sunny and beautiful and all was well with the world. We were just putting in the last load of second cut alfalfa. Suddenly, we hear a blood curdling scream from our herdsman who was milking the cows and within minutes all was a conflagration.
The rest of the day and in fact most of the rest of the year was a blur as we were faced with many decisions about our future. What would we do…how would we earn our income? The dairy represented about 80% and the orchard about 20% and this did not leave us enough to survive on.
Once the smoke had cleared we moved forward to the fall and harvested our fruit crop and completed what would come next.
The Birth of Springvale Nurseries!
Christmas came and went and things had somewhat settled down for the winter. It was New Year’s Eve, 1985. We were at a party with friends and having a few drinks of Scotch (I do like a bit of whiskey)! My lifetime best friend (and still so 60 years later) was a landscape contractor. He made a comment that would change our life and future. “What if we could consider growing trees for landscaping?”
We all have lightbulb moments and that was one of the biggest ones for me and soon Nancy bought into the idea as well.
My background in fruit production and horticulture and the residual assets of our farm after the fire put us in a perfect position to develop a new business growing trees for the landscape market.
After a year of research and doing our homework both physically and financially we began what was to become “Springvale Nurseries” and ultimately became the top production nursery in our region.
I will spare you the details for now on the next 30 + years but suffice to say it was a grand adventure. We are still involved many years later and the original business has been merged with our daughters company “Bloom Greenhouse and Garden Centre” Sometimes….the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and Cathy and Dan have created one of the province’s premier retail garden centers. Still operating near Halifax. I have taken over the management of the tree division.
So When and How Did the Gardener’s Friend begin?
One thing that is a regular and persistent chore in both the orchard and nursery industry is the need to prune trees and plants for both efficiency of fruit production and for structural formation and market appeal. Over the years, most of the pruning work fell on me, sometimes with helpers, sometime without. Also, Nancy became a master pruner as well, particularly in the nursery plants.
Now…one thing that is inevitable is ageing! And needless to say, we are no longer “spring chickens”. I am now in my 70’s and Nancy isn’t far behind.
So, both of us began to suffer from age and arthritis disability in our hands. (And other joints as well). What was once routine and easy gradually became painful and difficult. Both of us developed Carpal Tunnel syndrome and Nancy even experience broken wrist bones in a fall.
How were we to deal with this? The pruning still needed to be done.
By accident I was attending a trade show with our nursery as exhibitors to promote our trees. We happened upon a vendor selling pruning tools who had a ratchet device which looked interesting. We purchased one of these and began using this tool. It seemed to be much easier to use and with some research we found a manufacturer who could build a tool to meet our specifications.
The rest of the story goes a bit like this…. We started selling our new tool on amazon.com and soon built up a loyal following. This was more than 5 years ago and since then we have sold many thousands of these tool to gardeners all over the US, Canada, The UK and EU countries.
We have added more tools to our line over the years, always with the goal of providing tools to folks like us for whom the task of pruning is no longer as easy as it once was.
Stay tuned for more stories about our business and our products. We are thrilled with your support of the years and your interest. We empathize with your pain and want to help you avoid or mitigate it, just as these tools have done for us.
Thanks for listening and may you have many happy days in your yards and gardens!
Founder, the Gardener’s Friend.