Our Assets Go Home at Night – How Jonathan Saperstein is Changing the Green Industry

I have decided that I am, at my core, a bit of a hippie.  While you wouldn’t know it by looking at me, I am a Subaru driving, yoga doing, no sugar eating hippie.  About the only thing I like better than my Birkenstocks and organic garden are the people that try to make the world a better place by taking care of the earth and the people that inhabit it.  My botanical brother Morgan McBride works for one of these people.  Jonathan Saperstein is an outstanding young man that is proving that you can profitably produce high quality landscape products while taking extremely good care of the people that grow them.

Jonathan Saperstein, CEO of Tree Town Enjoys time with his co-workers at an industry trade show

Jonathan Saperstein, CEO of Tree Town, sharing some trade show antics with his wife and a loyal customer at an industry trade show

When Jonathan Saperstein became CEO of Tree Town USA in 2015 he set out to change the way the green industry produces live goods.  In many agricultural entities labor is an input not much different than seed or fertilizer.  It is an expense to be managed.  Jonathan sees his employees as something different.  To him, his employees are the most important link in the entire production chain.  His employees have a direct impact on the quality of his products and they also greatly impacted the cost at which he can sell his product. This understanding that the employees truly are the main asset of his business lead him to coin his company’s motto – “Our assets go home at night”.

Jonathan with some of Tree Town's most valuable assets - its employees!

Jonathan with some of Tree Town’s most valuable assets – its employees!

Today, each of the “assets” at Tree Town USA have access to one of the most progressive benefits packages in the green industry.  In addition to paying the employees at rates well above the industry average, every Tree Town employee is eligible for a comprehensive benefits package that includes medical insurance and access to a 401K.  Agricultural workers are also offered an incentive plan that includes safety goals and team development activities that can give them addition pay bumps every two weeks.  The company offers (and encourages the employees to participate in) free GED classes and free English and Spanish classes.


This past summer, Morgan told about one of the more unique things that Jonathan has implemented at Tree Town.   Each day at 7:00 am, every employee that is on site at each of their seven farms lines up and does calisthenics.  This was very interesting to me and I asked Morgan if the employees were embracing it.  He said, oddly enough, they were.  While the time is great for stretching cold muscles it is also time for the teams to come together in a relaxed environment and listen as the supervisors and safety leads lay out the day’s work, provide safety briefings and celebrate safety milestones.

7:00 am is exercise time at all seven of Tree Town's farms

7:00 am is exercise time at all seven of Tree Town’s farms

These morning calisthenics were interesting enough to me that I decided to ask Jonathan if they were making a difference for Tree Town.  Something about the way I asked the question made Jonathan grin.   Jonathan said I was not the first to be skeptical about the benefits of his morning workouts.  However, he informed me that since he implemented his exercise program there has been 39% decrease in incidents rates and the average cost of incident has gone from 34 cents per man hour to 4 cents a man hour.

Agricultural workers historically have low wages and very few benefits. tree Town USA is working to change that.

Agricultural workers historically have low wages and very few benefits. tree Town USA is working to change that.

While Jonathan is excited about the decrease in costs his exercise program is producing, he told me the real proof that his policies are working is the increase in profitability that is allowing him to grow his business.  While many live good producers are struggling to stay open, Tree Town is adding farms, employees and products.  His employee focused policies have attracted (and kept) the best trained employees in the industry.  Since he celebrates and rewards the contribution his employees add to the bottom line, they in turn consistently produce top quality products and provide the superior customer service that has allowed Tree Town to differentiate itself and its products in an industry that is often thought of as a commodity.  In regards to Jonathan’s impact on Tree Town, David Stoeber of SiteOne Landscape supply said “As someone who has done business with Tree Town before and during Jonathan’s leadership, I can see what a huge impact Jonathan has made on Tree Town.  They have gone from being a supplier on the list to The Supplier I judge the others by.”

These 670 gallon oaks are indicative of the quality trees that the employees of Tree Town consistently produce

These 670 gallon oaks are indicative of the quality trees that the employees of Tree Town consistently produce

I am very happy that I know Jonathan Saperstein.  As a business man I am excited to watch a new leader in the horticultural industry take chances and implement policies that will positively impact his bottom line and hopefully change the way the green industry operates.  As a humanitarian I am inspired that he is shaking up the green industry by taking care of the workers that produce the trees, shrubs and bedding plants that we use to make our little corner of the world more beautiful.

Late Season Legumes and a Pomegranate Tip by Patty Leander


Kwintus’ pole beans

The transition to cool season vegetables is well underway and my garden has gone from an embarrassing end-of-summer jumble to a reenergized and productive backyard vegetable patch. It seemed like it would never come but that hint of cool weather finally arrived and nighttime temperatures have begun their gradual decline. Even though the thermometer may still hit the 90° mark it takes most of the day to get there and it doesn’t stay there for long. That spells R-E-L-I-E-F for plants.


Alcosa’ savoy cabbage and ‘Green Fingers’ cucumber

Thanks to some timely rains, cooling shade cover and a protective layer of mulch, the beans, squash and cucumbers I planted in late August are now producing and the broccoli, cauliflower, collards, cabbage and mustard are growing strong.


The Southern peas yielded several yummy meals before being invaded by leaf-footed bugs.

Southern peas that were planted in April – black-eyed peas, crowder peas and purple hulls – produced like champs all summer long but by October those *#!@ leaf-footed bugs were multiplying like crazy so I decided at this point in the season it was better to remove the plants than try to battle the stinkbugs. I harvested what I could; plenty of fresh pods for shelling and immediate enjoyment and even more dry pods that will be shelled and set aside for winter meals (including New Year’s Day).  Freezing fresh cowpeas couldn’t be any simpler: spread the shelled peas in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze till solid, then pour them into a plastic freezer bag, no blanching required.


Worchester Indian Red’ limas grow into vigorous, productive vines.

Butter beans are coming at me high and low – seems like I can harvest just as many on my hands and knees as I can on a ladder. They have produced off and on all summer and put on a new flush of growth and blooms in response to August rains that were accompanied by an ever-so-slight drop in temperature. I am growing three excellent pole varieties, ‘Sieva’, ‘Violet’s Multicolor Butterbean’ and ‘Worchester Indian Red’.  Their vigorous vines will climb whatever they come in contact with; the Worchesters have engulfed a 10 foot sunflower growing next to the trellis and the Sievas have found their way up into the pomegranate tree. Is this what they mean by companion planting?!


Dried pods ready for shelling – if they don’t shatter first.

If the dried pods are left too long on the vine they will sometimes split open and the seeds will fall to the ground, sprouting up wherever they land. I harvest dried pods every couple of days and keep them in a bowl on my kitchen counter; every once in awhile, without warning, a random pod shatters and the dried beans fly out of the bowl with an explosive POP, landing on the floor or flying into the sink. Makes me jump every time. When I have a full bowl I take them to my mom so she can shell them.


Kwintus flat beans are large and perfect for roasting!

I planted ‘Kwintus’ pole beans in late August and harvested my first pods about 50 days later. They are an early, flat, Romano-type bean, delicious and productive. They are also known as ‘Early Riser’ and their fast growth makes them great for the fall or spring season. If you’d like to give them a try next year order seeds online from Kitazawa Seeds (www.kitazawseed.com) or Turtle Tree Seeds (www.turtletreeseed.org). And be sure to try them in the following lip-smacking recipe.

Roasted Flat Beans

These roasted beans melt in your mouth. I came across this recipe in a Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA) publication a few years ago. The ingredients and the technique intrigued me and I had a bounty of beans at the time so I tried it and have been enjoying these beans ever since. The recipe was originally shared by Sheila and Matt Neal of Neal’s Deli in Carrboro, North Carolina. They recommend it as an economical side dish to feed a crowd and they say it tastes even better if made a day ahead. I can attest to that!

2 ½ lbs flat beans, rinsed and stemmed

½ cup peeled and thinly sliced garlic

2 cups diced yellow onion

2 medium-sized tomatoes, grated*

1 tsp sugar

½ tsp black pepper, coarsely ground

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

1 tbsp kosher salt

3 bay leaves

1 cup water

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Heat oven to 350°. Gently and thoroughly combine the above ingredients in a roasting pan. Place parchment paper directly onto the beans. Cover with a tight-fitting lid or foil. Cook until the beans are tender, stirring well every 15 minutes for about an hour and 15 minutes.

*Grating tomatoes is an easy way to “peel” them. Cut the tomato in half and remove seeds with your fingers. Place the cut side down on the coarse holes of a box grater. Run the tomato back and forth until all the flesh is grated. Discard the skin.



Hold a pomegranate half, seed side down, over a bowl and whack it several times to remove seeds

Pomegranate season is upon us and if you’ve been to the grocery store lately you’ve undoubtedly noticed pomegranates prominently displayed in the produce section. Or perhaps you are lucky enough to have your own tree. But the mysterious and exotic nature of the pomegranate can be a bit confounding when it’s time to liberate those seeds. I use to cut a pomegranate in half or quarters and turn them inside out into a bowl of water to release the seeds but ever since I saw this tip on the internet I’ve been paddling my pomegranates – it’s so easy!

The following video shows a street vendor in Bangkok who has an even better way; he removes the top and then scores the outside of the pomegranate along the white membranes. When he pulls it apart the membrane is loose and comes right out, then he proceeds – with lightening speed – to whack the seeds out of each section (jump ahead to 1:20 to go straight to his demo):


Those juicy little seeds (actually called arils) are a perfect pop of color and flavor to brighten leafy salads, rice or grain pilafs, oatmeal, yogurt, orange or grapefruit segments, cocktails or even sprinkled atop your favorite guacamole. I eat the entire seed. Do you?


I share these posts on Our SimpleHomestead Blog Hop.  Be sure to stop by.  The “hop” has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!