Neighbors give tree farm a hand
More than 100 pitch in to help owner’s widow prepare for prime season
The day after Thanksgiving is greeted by Christmas tree farms across Maryland as the start of the busiest and most profitable stretch of the year. But for one farm in northern Harford County, getting ready for the holidays required some helping hands from the community.
This year is the first that Jarrettsville Nurseries is carrying on without G. Boyd Saulsbury, a second-generation tree farmer who for years guided the family business that first opened in 1961.
Saulsbury died in February at age 50 after a lengthy bout with cancer. Dana Saulsbury now runs the 80-acre farm with help from their three children.
In recent weeks, Dana Saulsbury began to fall behind on a lengthy to-do list to get the choose-and-cut tree operation up and running for this weekend’s season opening
To their rescue came more than 100 pairs of helping hands — volunteers from the community who showed up last weekend to prepare saws, stake out an outdoor Christmas village, repair roadways and perform other chores before the rush of customers that is expected today.
“It’s love. It’s neighbors helping neighbors. It’s overwhelming,” said Dana Saulsbury.
Jarrettsville Nurseries is a member of the Maryland Christmas Tree Association, a network of farms that promote the choose-and-cut and live tree market. The weekend after Thanksgiving is considered prime selling time for Christmas trees, as many families make a tree purchase part of their weekend activities.
It’s an important segment of the state’s farm industry. According to data on the Maryland Department of Agriculture website, there are about 170 Christmas tree growers in the state, with nearly 2,200 acres in production.
Mike Doran, president of the Harford County Farm Bureau, said when he learned Jarretsville Nurseries was having Kate Stine, left, and her friend Christina Travaline place posts for the Christmas village at Jarrettsville Nurseries. The longtime owner, G. Boyd Saulsbury, died in February and his widow, Dana Saulsbury, had fallen behind on preparing for the tree season. trouble. getting ready for the season, he used the bureau’s Facebook page to put out a call for help.
People in the community responded, many turning up at the farm on Holy Cross Road on Sunday for a day of volunteer work.
“We were ecstatic about the turnout,” Doran said. “There were folks there that weren’t with the farm bureau — friends of the family and other organizations that heard about it.
“We knocked out the majority of the list and certainly got the stuff done to get them ready to open on Friday,” he said.
Madisyn Ames, a student at North Harford High School and a member of the school’s Future Farmers of America chapter, was among those who came to volunteer. Boyd Saulsbury was a North Harford graduate, a member of the FFA.
“Our chapter feels very strongly that we need to have a presence in our community and we need to help,” Ames said as she stocked the farm’s sales building with Christmas tree stands and other items.
A neighbor of the farm, Jamie Reeves, used a tractor with a mower to cut fields, while fellow resident Derek Hopkins — Harford County’s register of wills — rode a smaller tractor cutting between rows of trees.
“We wanted to come out and help the Saulsbury family to pay back for what they do in the community,” said Jim Hutchins, owner of J&R Sheds and Equipment Inc., in Churchville, who showed up with equipment to help.
Harford County Councilman Chad Shrodes, who represents the northern area of the county, said the turnout reflected the spirit of the farm community — and an appreciation for contributions made by the Saulsbury family.
“During his life, Boyd gave back tirelessly,” said Shrodes. “He offered his farm without hesitation to nonprofits to hold events, contributed back-breaking manual labor whenever there was a call for help and donated hundreds of Christmas trees to military families each year.”
For Dana Saulsbury, the outreach from friends and neighbors was a fitting tribute during a season of thanks and goodwill.
“It warms my heart,” she said. It “makes me realize how much the community loved Boyd, and how much Boyd loved the community.”