Frank Schmidt produces shade, flowering and ornamental trees for the wholesale market.
Frank works alongside his sister Jan. They follow in the footsteps of their father and grandfather, who also worked the nursery.
It all started back in 1946 when Frank’s grandfather, also named Frank Schmidt, and his wife planted their first trees on 10 acres west of Troutdale, Oregon. The rich alluvial soils that sloped gently northward toward the Columbia River were ideal for growing nursery stock.
Frank Sr. found himself in the post-war building boom when there was a great demand for trees in cities, suburbs, industrial parks and public places. Frank saw the need for trees of consistent quality, form and survivability, grown from selected, superior parent stock. He soon carved a niche for himself by perfecting the mass production of bare root shade and flowering trees produced from budded cultivars.
One particularly special tree
A discussion of J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co. wouldn't be complete without mention of the Red Sunset® Maple, a hardy, beautiful and adaptable red maple that put the Schmidts’ business on the map. Frank Sr. selected this variety and observed it for a number of years before introducing it to the trade in 1966. It has since been named the "Number One Shade Tree" in Ohio Shade Tree Trials and become the top selling red maple in the country.
Today, Frank Jr. continues his grandfather’s legacy. He continues to research, test and evaluate new plant materials at the nursery. “We strive to grow the best trees in the marketplace. Over the years, we've introduced more than 100 unique varieties of trees to the industry,” he said.
However, the process of developing and testing new cultivars is one for the long run. It can take 10 to 15 years before a new tree is released to the trade. An additional challenge is to develop trees for urban areas that can thrive despite soil compaction, air pollution, insect attack and intense heat. Frank cooperates closely with the U. S. National Arboretum, the Landscape Plant Development Center and other universities and arboreta in the testing and introduction of improved cultivars.
Farm Credit was there to help
Frank was able to achieve all of this, in part, because of support from Farm Credit. “Northwest Farm Credit Services (NWFCS) is a grassroots organization that understands our local agriculture,” he said.
Frank has been especially inspired by the fact that many of the folks he’s worked with at NWFCS have come from farm families just like his own. “They know the ups and downs of the agriculture industry, and they understand the unique challenges,” he said. “There's always change going on in the industry and, together, we put all those factors together and plan for the future.”
Reflecting on his experiences and life in the nursery business, Frank said, “I've never wanted to do anything else.”