I first knew this rural Flagler County land as a working cattle ranch in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s; it was like so much of “Old Florida”, with pasture, pine, patches of oak hammock and creeks winding through over 5000 acres. It was pastoral and it was peaceful. The pristine frontage on Lake Disston is like the painting of a master artist.
In the mid to late 1980’s, a sizable tract of this ranch was sold to a family that developed a large tree nursery on it. Their approach was dynamic, scalable and utilized (then) the latest container production approaches. It was an impressive operation, which became part of a multi-location nursery and distribution network. That horticultural business was something to behold – until the Great Recession claimed it as one of many victims.
The operation was idled and inventory liquidated over time as it could be. Container plants in the intense Florida environment don't age well, however, unlike fine wine in a cool cellar. It didn't take long before the operation was but a shadow of its former self and fell into the hands of a horticultural operation that simply used what it could of the property for a period of time, putting nothing back into it. The steady decline of the infrastructure, and what little inventory there was, continued. This one-time showplace became like an abandoned Victorian-era house; the structure was still intact and it didn't look too bad from a distance, but close-up was another view entirely.
Grand old houses like that require a fresh new vision and an owner willing to invest time, significant capital, heart and soul into renovation. Fortunately, this fine property has found such a new owner and steward in Jonathan Saperstein of "Tree Town". In a horticultural sense, Saperstein has made a massive commitment to rejuvenation and the restored potential is already taking shape. It's not just restoring the land and structure to its original condition; it’s a work-in-progress of fixing the foundation and framework, and then installing modern new conveniences and improvements that will make the new operation even better than the original. You can already see it coming to life and the Saperstein's Vision for Tree Town taking shape. Tree Town has attracted top horticulturists to participate in the rejuvenation; the nursery is a beehive of activity and the positive energy is palpable.
Land, water, plants and daily care, both working with and defending against Mother Nature – those elements are ever-present and only for the vigilant. The addition of new technology and infrastructure to cultivate, pot, process, tend, harvest and ship will give this rejuvenated nursery operation every opportunity to elevate what’s there to a higher level. It's inspiring to see the original, the old and the new being molded into something even better. Something tells me that Jonathan Saperstein and his team are up to the challenge.
Life and business go through phases and cycles; it’s how we adapt when things change that defines us and creates our legacy. Enjoy the journey!