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Posted: February 27, 2011 12:30 a.m.

Rocky Creek Nursery

Local tree farm stands strong in trying economic times

Sabastian Wee/

Rocky Creek Nursery, located in Newborn, has struggled to maintain its operations due to the current economic climate. The farm specializes in conventional landscaping trees, with 35 varieties like maples, oaks, hollies, magnolias and crape myrtles.

Trees are shipped in to the farm in two different forms: trees in bare-root liners - planted in cooler seasons - are bundled and healed-in with sawdust; bare-root liners typically include maple, oak and elm trees. Trees in containers, which are planted in summer months, are non-binded roots and consist mostly of evergreens.

When the trees are planted, it will be three years before they are ready for sale. Trees are priced by their height and width. The property has a total of 500 acres, with 220 acres in production. Rocky Creek currently has 10,000 trees in the ground.

Fall and Spring are the farm's busiest months, as re-wholesale and retail companies make their purchases. The summer months are mostly dedicated to the maintenance of the nursery. Its best-selling items are October Glory Maples and Nellie Stevens Hollies.

The land was purchased by Raymond Schoembaum in 1996, who also owns Atlanta's popular Ray's Restaurants. According to Hall, Schoembaum's father is one of the founders of Shoney's restaurants. The property was chosen for its proximity to Atlanta, its access to the interstate and the richness of the soil.

"The scale of the farm is so big, we pretty much went with the meat-and-potatoes type of menu," said Hall. "That's been widely accepted and has helped us maintain our operations."

At its height, the farm employed 16 employees. Hall said they could barely keep up with the market demands as they served over 250 customers. However, since the economic downturn, the farm reduced its numbers to 6 employees and serves 60 customers.

"We were able to hang on for a while until the economy went to the dogs," said Hall. "It's been a tough two years. Our customers are good people, very down to earth."

However, Hall noted that the reduced number of employees has produced more, allowing the farm to maintain profitability.

A large summer lodge built on the property, with a backyard view of the pond, is open to the nursery's clients and employees. Barbeques, hunting and fishing are some of the activities the nursery has hosted in the past. Hall said there is discussion to rent the cabin to the public in the near future.

"We've had a couple of weddings out here," said Hall. "We've brought our customers out and they have stayed on the weekends to hunt and fish. I'll come out and grill for them from time to time. It's a big bonus, especially for the employees."

Between working long hours at Rocky Creek Nursery, Wade Hall and his son regularly go fishing in the farm's stocked pond.

"My son caught his first fish here," said Hall. "It's was about eight pounds. I'm hoping we're going to catch a 10-pounder one of these days."

 

 

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