A tree nursery that closed in 2009 is back in business.
MBC Summerland Nursery is again growing trees for reforestation and providing jobs.
A crew of about a dozen is working now, and an estimated 45 workers are expected to be needed for harvest in the fall.
The closure of the nursery was one of several business and industry shutdowns that shook the Summerland economy at the end of the last decade.
Summerland has had a nursery at the MBC location on Logie Road since the 1920s when Harold McLachlan grew flowers. In the mid-1980s it became a forest nursery under the leadership of Dave Lund.
In recent years the nursery had been leased to PRT by MBC Summerland Nursery Ltd. This year MBC is operating the nursery as a contract grower of forest seedlings for the Ministry of Forests and other forestry companies.
MBC president Ivan Haag said the tree business is coming back because of logging activity driven by China’s economy and a backlog of reforestation commitments.
“So it’s a good time to get back into it.”
Work will slow down after seeding, weeding and thinning are completed because there won’t be a summer harvest this year. Hiring will start in September for the fall harvest season.
Haag has been working at the nursery for more than 20 years since he took an entry level job.
He had completed his degree in Biology and Environmental Studies in Manitoba and went on to work in various seasonal positions on the Prairies, always contract jobs that came to an end.
A friend suggested he try the Summerland area because “they have trees there.”
His first job in Summerland was at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Station classifying chemicals for the new federal Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS).
In 1989 he took a $7-an-hour job at the tree nursery, where he saw his future.
“I always paid to go to school, and here I was getting paid for an education.” On the generic business card the nursery provided he wrote in his name and gave himself the title of “future owner.”
During his early years at the nursery he also owned and operated a fruit stand at Trout Creek.
In 1994 he sold the fruit stand and formed a development company, which included his late father Gene Haag and his uncle Ray Haag, to buy the nursery. They then leased it to PRT.
This year seeding at the MBC nursery started with Douglas fir, followed by spruce, lodgepole pine, cedar, white pine and ending with larch. The trees will grow until harvest starts in October. They will then be graded, packed and shipped to cold storage to await planting in the spring of 2013.
This year the B.C. Ministry of Forests is the largest customer. The way it works is that the customer, which might be a lumber company, a First Nation or another organization, buys the seeds and owns the trees. MBC is a contract grower that bids on producing a certain number of trees.
The seeds come from seed orchards or wild collections.
This year’s contract is for approximately 5.76 million trees. To grow the specified number of trees, an excess number of seeds have to be sown, sometimes 25 per cent more, said Haag.
This year’s trees are seeded in about 57,000 Styrofoam blocks and are distributed through the nursery’s 22 greenhouses and open compound located on 8.8 acres.
Haag expressed appreciation to the Summerland Credit Union and commercial manager Bob Isaak, who “made it all possible.”
“They saw the potential and they put this together.”
Haag is also grateful for the support he received from the other forest nurseries and in particular, the Boerbooms at Mountain View Growers for all their help and support in getting the business off the ground.
With Mountain View and MBC located within the municipality, Summerland has “the most forest nurseries per capita of any town in B.C.,” said Haag.
“It’s a really great industry.”
Haag also thanks his staff for their hard work in getting the nursery back into operation.