A quick look at Harvest Tree Company’s official mission statement tells you everything you need to know about this innovative and growing landscape company. The statement is a model of simplicity. It reads:
Wayne White and his younger brother Bruce founded Harvest in 1988, but it was a very different company from the one that exists today. “We were sort of nomads,” Bruce says. The brothers from New Jersey found themselves working for SaBell’s Hillside Gardens – a nursery in Denver, Colorado, where their own way of harvesting trees was garnering a lot of attention. “We used skid-steer loaders and a special tapered tree spade, but we really practiced good harvest techniques,” Bruce says.
“Most nurseries don’t package their material very well,” Bruce explains. “A lot of the plants we were getting in Colorado – where you have to bring almost everything in from out of state – were arriving in very poor condition.”
Bruce and Wayne began to travel, harvesting trees their own way. “We don’t use nylon twine because it doesn’t rot and it will eventually girdle a tree and kill it. We also dig oversized root balls and make sure they are air tight. Experts will tell you this is a bad business when shipping trees because freight costs are so expensive. But we ship a superior product that doesn’t need to be staked when planted. We give a lifetime guarantee on a tree remaining straight when planted with no staking material, if we harvested the tree. You can call me 20 years later if you have a crooked tree and we’ll come fix it for no cost. We have absolute confidence in our harvest method.”
Planting roots of their own
In 1988, a devastating hail storm forced SaBell’s out of business and saw the birth of Harvest Tree Company. The business model was complex: Bruce, Wayne and a crew led by two Hispanic employees – Bernardino Luna and Daniel Miraval – acted as subcontractors, harvesting trees for nurseries around the country, taking a percentage of the trees for themselves and selling them to other nurseries in the country. “It was a grueling life,” Bruce says.
Wayne eventually decided he wanted more stability and settled in his wife’s home state of Michigan, where he started a landscaping division of the company. Bruce and his crew continued to harvest trees, until a nursery in Fredericksburg, Virginia, hired him in 1996 to bring their crop of trees to market. Bruce noticed a distinct lack of installation landscapers in the area and decided to put down roots of his own.
Today, Harvest Tree is a multi-faceted landscaping company, with a high-profile installation division serving a wealthy clientele, a newly established mulching operation that serves Harvest’s needs first and other landscaper’s second by creating topsoil, compost, plant mix and mulch. And of course there’s a nursery operation using Bruce and Wayne’s own harvest methods.
“We harvest more trees and shrubs than ever,” Bruce says. “And we design and install anything – from large commercial and residential projects, but we never forget the small customers who helped get us where we are today.” The nursery is a high-volume operation that has forced Bruce to invest in heavy equipment, including Case dozers and wheel loaders, to maintain an efficient operation.
Giving back to the community
Bruce and his wife Vikkie both are passionate about Fredericksburg, and they want to help make it a better place to live. Even though his business makes extraordinary demands on his time, Bruce still manages to ride his bicycle and serves as a Scout Master for a local Boy Scout troop. He’s even managed to combine the two pastimes by organizing several cross-country rides for his scouts. He also took the lead in financing and pushing for the construction of a bowling center in town, where he has served as a youth coach for eight years.
“We wanted to create a safe, positive place where kids could go and have fun,” Bruce says. “They can bowl, play video games and just be kids without roaming the streets and getting into trouble. It’s been a positive thing for our community as a whole and I’m very proud of it.”
Today, Harvest Tree is a $4 million a year company. And last year, loyal Bernardino and Daniel, who stuck with the White brothers for so many years during a hard nomad existence, became part owners of the company. Both Bruce and Wayne are proud they’ve helped Bernardino become a U.S. citizen and send four children to college along the way.
“We love what we do,” Bruce White says. “We are creative, flexible and always give the customer more than they expect. We always give Mother Nature the utmost respect. We love the environment and believe that what we do can make a difference and stand the test of time.”