Local small business innovates to make fruit and ornamental trees healthy and affordable! At vLife, we tend to geek out a bit when we find a new opportunity to buy what we need from a local small business. Especially when it means we can support local business in unexpected ways during a pandemic.
This fall, vLife’s consultant developer Majid Nasirinejad was looking for some trees to plant in front of his house. A sugar maple and a red oak to be specific. “When I checked the plant nurseries around, I found that most of the trees, bushes, and flowers are imported from the United States or, in a few cases, other provinces outside Atlantic Canada,” says Majid.
Googling “local businesses near me” doesn’t quite cut it.
With a price range of $120 to $250, Majid decided to see if buy-local was a better option. (And yes, even with the power of the internet, finding local small businesses that do what you want can be really hard. More on that and what we can do about it here.)
After days of searching, Majid finally found a small local tree producer in the Annapolis Valley via Facebook Marketplace. He met up with her at the Wolfville Farmers Market and picked up four trees at $25 each.
“The trees are smaller than the $120 ones, but that was not the reason for the lower price,” he explains. “Most of the nurseries here are US distributors, so their profit margin is tied to import fees, shipping costs, and the number of trees that die in transit. Supporting this local producer meant that every single dollar I spent on those trees is going back to our community, to our neighbours, and to our kids.”
I’m not sure it would have occurred to me to check out the birthplace of my trees.
At my house, I’m only allowed to weed. Apparently, I’m not qualified to make major gardening decisions. But Majid’s experience got me thinking.
His due diligence in sourcing a small independent business option for his landscaping needs is a good reminder that “buy local” is about more than local food, local gifts, and locally made products. It’s also about looking to local supply chains for things we’ve gotten used to buying from big box retailers — things like trees.
This wonderful purveyor of local trees turns out to be Michelle Morrison. She and her husband Nathan started Maple Grove Nursery in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley in 2017, and this year is their first time bringing a crop to market here in Canada. (They’d been doing it in Australia since 1996, where there’s apparently a certain mania for deciduous trees from the Maritimes!)
Small local business alternatives to the global supply chain are all around us.
Maple Grove specializes in rootstocks for fruit and ornamental trees and deciduous tree seedlings. They also offer custom tree grafting services, so beloved, rare, or heritage trees can get a new life. With no retail location, Michelle sells the trees at farmers markets in Wolfville and Digby, and ships them by mail to customers all over the region. It’s a business tailor-made for the times we live in.
Michelle and Nathan grow their trees from scratch right on their own property — nothing is imported. (They’re hoping to have 40 to 50 kinds of apple trees available this year!) She says the biggest “missing piece” in the buy local puzzle in Atlantic Canada is understanding where our plants actually come from.
“The apples come from a local tree. But where did that tree come from?” she explains. “A larger retailer might not understand what climate the tree comes from and what it needs to thrive, or know how much time it spent on a truck before getting to the garden centre. Everyone should be able to enjoy gardening with trees, but it’s not accessible financially.”
Nova Scotia Local Small Business tree growers, Maple Grove, know everything that goes into each seedling.
“The difference is that we’re local growers who know everything that went into this tree, before it even was a tree, and we know every step of how that tree came to be. Consumers are fueling a demand for responsible production, and there’s not enough supply for the demand.”
The Morrisons are hoping to meet that demand, and make trees accessible to gardeners and commercial orchards alike while reducing carbon footprint for all the beautiful trees we grow here in Nova Scotia. They’re also bringing the best nursery innovations and technology to Canada, including membranes that mean you can just pop your tree right into the ground. No plastic pot, no waste, no pot-bound roots — just a healthy tree you’ll enjoy for a lifetime.
“We’re selling you something that is going to thrive, not just survive,” adds Michelle. “This is a huge risk and investment for us, but it’s the way forward.”
The moral of the story? The next time you need something — anything! — maybe spend a little more time googling “small business near me”. Even better, visit us at vlife. You might be surprised by what’s waiting for you.
Tell us about your cool or surprising support local find in the comments!