An organic tree nursery: an agrarian life

Most of you know that I work as a business broker. This is in many ways an enjoyable profession because I come across so many interesting business opportunities. Well, I’m going to tell you about one of them now.

I think every homesteader dreams of one day being able to work his land full-time. I know that I do. But making a living on small acreage is very difficult these days. Corporate agriculture, huge economies of scale, cheap imports and government policies have helped make small-scale farming a thing of the past. Nevertheless, there are a few niches here and there that are making it on small acreage. Diversified organic farming, for example, can be quite profitable on just a few acres when the product is sold directly to the consumer via farmers’ markets or other venues.

There’s another kind of agrarian business that thrives on small acreage. Surprisingly, I hadn’t given it any consideration until I came across this organic tree nursery in the Klamath River valley. A nursery! In fact there’s one right across the road from me, selling fruit and nut trees along with peaches, cherries, and farm fresh eggs year-round: it’s been there for generations. The organic tree nursery I am working with sells bare-root fruit and nut trees all over the country. The present location is so remote that there are very few local customers. 90% of sales are internet based, generated by a prominent top-notch website. The nursery’s customers are primarily rural homesteads, small farms, community gardens, and urban backyard gardeners. The product is shipped when dormant. College interns supply much of the labor, thereby minimizing labor costs while educating young people at the same time. Only two or three fertile acres are needed along with some additional infrastructure (an irrigation system, office space, etc.) . Until now this has been a part-time, hobby-like business for the owner, but it has grown to the point where it requires more attention than he can give it. The business is seasonal, leaving much of the off-season available for leisure or the development of complimentary products. Unlike most small farms today, this nursery is operating at a profit – albeit a small one at this point. With some additional marketing, a full-time owner can expect to grow this business to its full potential.

The nice thing about this business is that it is internet-based. That is to say, it is relocatable to anywhere in the country with a suitable climate and growing season.

A word about the seller. The owner of this business is a remarkable man. He’s an expert in his field, a born teacher, and extremely generous with his time and knowledge. He will provide expert training to the new owner of this business. He’s also willing to consult with the new owner on a contractual, as-needed basis. He is not willing to sell this business to just anybody. He’s looking for someone who shares his philosophy of sustainable agriculture (preferably someone who’s heard of Wendell Berry). The more qualified the candidate, the more willing he will be to work with him on price and terms. The seller’s primary interest is for his business to continue doing good in the world.

The nursery is priced at $95,000. All offers will be seriously considered. Send me an e-mail if you are interested. You’ll need to sign a confidentiality agreement before I can disclose any proprietary information, including the name of the business and the website. Here are some photos of the operation:

Christmas shopping

Today I did some last minute Christmas shopping. A lot of people are down on Christmas “commercialism”, and for the most part I agree with the criticism. It takes a lot of effort not to let the commercialization of Christmas affect one’s own preparations, or even take over the entire holiday. Nevertheless, I think there is something good in what has become the uniquely American ritual of Christmas shopping. The conversations I overheard, for instance, had to do with people talking about what other people might enjoy or appreciate. Like good manners, the pressure to shop for others can force you to consider the “other” when you might not otherwise care. This has to be a good thing. That’s what social pressure is supposed to do, draw us a little bit out of ourselves. I also appreciate the public displays of Christmas festiveness, even in a commercial context. I disagree with those who say that commerce is by definition a-cultural or even anti-cultural. There is no reason in the world why a business must subordinate everything it does to the “bottom line”, and when it comes to small businesses, most don’t.


Speaking of which, each and every clerk I spoke with today wished me a Merry Christmas. Even the Barnes and Noble clerks. And they didn’t wait for the customer to give them any clues, selectively saying “Merry Christmas” only to those who mentioned the word first. No – they wished all a Merry Christmas, unashamedly and unselfconsciously. This, in Chico, a notoriously progressive university town, sometimes called “Berkeley North”! Is this merely a profit-minded response to the public backlash against the “Happy Holiday” grinches? Perhaps. That’s most likely the case with Barnes and Noble, which doesn’t seem to have any moral scruples about anything. (I won’t let my kids go ten feet into that store …) In any case, I think the spell of political correctness is being broken when it comes to Christmas. It will be nice when we can once again wish strangers a Merry Christmas without any political backdrop whatsover.


One of the books I purchased was a gift for a relative who is expecting a child. I wanted to find one of those books for new parents that teaches about infant development, medical and health issues, breastfeeding, and other things. However, almost every book I picked up was promoting something evil or ridiculous. Most had chapters promoting the glories of artificial birth control. Almost all had an overt emphasis on “gender-neutral parenting”. One of these books – one of the better ones – acknowledged that young boys should be “encouraged” to wear pants instead of dresses. However, if a boy wants to wear dresses “all the time”, you should contact your pediatrician! Hey, how about not letting your boy wear dresses in the first place? Since when is this optional?


My passion for books is waning. Perusing the religion, philosophy, history, biography and current affairs sections just doesn’t stimulate anymore. I don’t want to read Hegel or Kierkegaard or Bertrand Russell or Christopher Hitchens. I don’t want to entertain any more of the world’s tragic misguided ideas. I don’t want to read any more apologetics. I don’t want to read another book about the decline of western civilization. I don’t want to read another book about bout how great America is because “it allowed someone like me to rise to the top”, or conversely, how bad America is because “fill-in-the-blank doesn’t have a chance to rise to the top”. (To everyone – left, right, and center – it seems that America is all about “making it” and rising to the top.) I sense that, for me, the hour is late. I should be reading “Preparation for Death” by St. Alphonsus Liguori, which has been sitting untouched on my bookshelf for much too long. I have barely scratched the surface of St. Thomas Aquinas. I never finished St. Augustine’s “City of God”. I seldom do any disciplined spiritual reading at all these days.

Huckabee, Paul, and the System

In my early 20s I had a job which required organizing shelves in a warehouse. I had a brief argument with someone I was working with about how best to organize the product. Should we arrange the product by type? Style? Vendor? Name? Part-number? Alphabetically, numerically, or alpha-numerically? Etc. And then it occurred to me that, while one system might be better than another, the really important thing was that we have a system in the first place, and that everyone understand how to use it. The problem, at that moment, was that there was no system at all, and no one knew how to find the product easily. The first and primary need was order – and almost any order would do.

A corollary of that principle is that, when faced with a system that perhaps isn’t the best, changing from one system to a “better” system can often create more problems than it solves in the short run. Furthermore, depending on the magnitude of the change there are risks involved that could, in fact, end up making things worse. An old system that is familiar and functional is preferable to a “better” system that is untried and unfamiliar.

I think of politics in the same terms. That’s the only reason I vote. Our political system seems hopelessly flawed, hopelessly destined for a magnificent crash landing (perhaps in the very near future), but rather than agitate for a new system – let’s say, a Catholic monarchy – I believe we need to work with what we’ve got, because it is familiar and because a better system will simply not be accepted by the general public. Voters are like EEMs: once they’ve got a taste of “participation”, however superficial, they’re not going to give it up without a fight. And so we must live with democracy, a relentless ideological machine that undermines the entire edifice of Christian faith and piety, but that nevertheless does a decent job at keeping the roads paved and the clean water flowing and the criminals behind bars. It’s what we know, it’s all we have, and it’s the only thing our countrymen will accept.

I stated earlier that I will be voting for Ron Paul. There’s an interesting discussion of his candidacy, from a Catholic perspective, going on over at Caelum et Terra. Mike Huckabee has recently caught my attention, however, because he seems to make up for Ron Paul’s libertarian flaws. To use libertarian parlance, Huckabee is an “interventionist” when it comes to the use of government to achieve social goals. So, for that matter, am I – in principle. But it is one thing to be a mere “interventionist”, and another thing to be an interventionist with bad ideas. Just as good government policies have the potential to achieve a great deal of good, bad government policies can do a great deal of harm. What would Huckabee’s interventionism look like in practice? It’s hard to say. Whatever his personal convictions, he would be the president of a largely post-Christian nation. Whatever good he wanted to do, if truly good, would almost certainly be opposed by the congress and the courts and undermined by the bureaucrats at every turn. He might succeed, however, in paving the way for government intervention at every level, unintentionally handing our internal enemies the rope with which they can finally hang the old republic. In a nation where even the best men don’t quite know why they believe what they believe, an interventionist federal government is not a good thing.

In addition to being a man of unflinching principle and Christian integrity, Ron Paul is without question a libertarian ideologue. But in an ideological age, I suppose a libertarian ideologue is the right kind to have. For all of his flaws, he believes doggedly in subsidiarity and would return “democracy” to a meaningful scale, giving little pockets of decency a chance at survival. In the long run that’s probably the best we can hope for: little pockets of sanity here and there, with spiritual and moral resources sufficient to weather the storm and to provide the seeds of renewal when it’s all over. Yes, it seems clear to me that the system as we know it is more or less doomed. Let’s try to make the inevitable crash as gentle as possible and preserve what we can for posterity. I don’t much like sharing a political coalition with pot-smokers, brothel owners, white supremacists, and porn-addicts, but there you have it.


Gather the family ’round your computer, dear readers! And crank up those speakers! In this Stony Creek Digest EXCLUSIVE you will be treated to a perfectly enunciated audio version of the historic motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, created and spoken by my talented friend from Sacramento, a gentleman whose great humility prevents me from disclosing his true identity, and who for attribution purposes wishes only to be known as “Buckminster Westminster”. Just pull up a chair, click here, sit back and enjoy.

A blessed day

The morning of December 8 was cold, crisp, and clear in northern California – an immaculate sky for the Immaculate One, and for a child soon to be made immaculate by the waters of holy baptism. The feast commemorates the conception of Our Lady in the womb of St. Anne, a fitting day for the baptism of her namesake, Anne Josephine.

The sacrament was administered by Fr. Robert Novokowsky, F.S.S.P., in the medieval Lady Chapel at St. Stephen the First Martyr Catholic Church.

Anne with her wonderful Godparents.

My incomparable wife and our three daughters.

Fr. Novokowsky and his flock of Culbreaths.

Anne with her sweet Godmother, the kind of Catholic she would do well to imitate, and who would be deeply embarrassed if I told you any more about her. (God bless you, Mrs. D.!)

Anne just before her baptism, with my dear great-aunt Hilda.