Harnden’s Tree Nursery is a family-owned wholesale grower of shade, flowering and ornamental trees on 300 acres in the Snohomish River valley of Washington.
Kevin Harnden’s grandparents, Pat and Dick Harnden, started the business.
“Grandfather grew up on an apple orchard in the small town of Cashmere in Central Washington. He was the first in his family to graduate from college. He hitchhiked to the University of Washington, got a forestry degree, and worked for the Forest Service," Kevin said. "After he married and had a family he decided to become a landscaper.”
He had a truck and wheelbarrow and started purchasing trees.
“They were driving to Oregon for trees or having some shipped here, so they decided to grow some of their own. This evolved into a dual-purpose operation,” Kevin said.
They had 10 acres at Clearview, near Snohomish, and a shop where they stored equipment. Eventually they needed more space as they grew more trees. They purchased another property between Everett and Marysville and grew more trees.
“My dad was involved by then and had a landscaping architectural degree from (Washington State University). This brought more expertise to the business, so they extended their nursery," he said. "They were financing their dream of having a tree nursery through their landscaping enterprises. For a while they weren’t making any money — just pouring everything right back into it and buying equipment, land and trees.”
Eventually they grew the nursery to the point that it was taking all their time and effort and they had to stop landscaping.
“It had become a distraction and they needed all hands on deck to keep the tree business going," Kevin said. "Due to some zoning and other factors, they needed more land, so they purchased 180 acres near Snohomish in 1999 and then in 2006 had an opportunity to purchase an additional 156 acres on the other side of the road. This got us to the volume we needed.”
Kevin’s father, Mike, does most of the operations and equipment maintenance plus inventory control and plant pathology.
“He does the out-in-the-field portion and I do the sales, contract management, crew management, etc.," he said. "My grandma, Pat, is still involved. She does most of the bookkeeping.”
Kevin is getting married soon, and his dream is to see the nursery continue through more generations.
“I dream of seeing it reach 100 years of operation, which would be in 2063,” Kevin said.
Most wholesalers who buy their trees are in the Puget Sound area, though some are as far away as Boise.
“We generally sell 1,500 trees on a good year. The varieties we sell do quite well in the soil and climate of the Rockies but it isn’t as nutrient-rich as here in the flood plain," he said.
All of their trees are field grown.
“We have a great crew that has been with us longer than I’ve been alive, and they know how to do it. They used to hand dig all the trees, and then we got a machine," Kevin said. "The machine we have now is the second one we bought — when I was 12 years old — and we’ve had it 14 years."
It has an optimal spade and digs a good root ball, he said.
Their market is high-quality, larger trees, on the upper end of the price scale. These trees are already well established and people don’t have to wait a long time for them to grow.
“We send trees to cities that are fairly picky, with picky inspectors; quality is what we strive for,” Kevin said. These trees can be expected to take off and keep growing, and look nice.
This is a family business and even though they do a lot together, they are able to separate the business relationship and family relationship.
“We value each other and love doing what we do every day, together. I am excited to be able to continue it, and looking forward to the journey ahead, cherishing the moments with my family.”