we have history
"The Speer family passion for growing trees began in the 1930’s. Back then, a young Dan Speer grew up watching his father bud trees, waiting for the day when he would be big enough to join him."
The Speer family passion for growing trees began in the 1930’s. Back then, a young Dan Speer grew up watching his father bud trees, waiting for the day when he would be big enough to join him.
Benjamin Speer, Dan’s father, was a well-respected budder in Fairview, Oregon and took his son under his wing at an early age. Under Benjamin’s influence, Dan was tying buds by age twelve with a rising interest in growing. It was clear early on that he would follow in his father’s footsteps and become a nurseryman.
Dan grew up, and after completing a tour in the navy in the 1940’s he set out to begin his life’s dream of working on a tree farm. Unfortunately for Dan, America was on the tail end of the Great Depression and nurseries were struggling to stay in business after the economic crash. Farmers weren’t hiring, but Dan refused to give up on his dream. He decided he only had one option: to start a nursery of his own.
He teamed up with his father, Benjamin, in 1948 to start Speer & Sons Nursery in Fairview, Oregon. Together, they planted a small amount of fruit trees on ten acres of rented land and focused their efforts on growing their crop to be the best quality possible.
It took Dan a few years of trial and error to develop his now-famous growing technique, but by 1950 he had conquered the craft of growing high quality trees. He purchased a 27-acre farm in Springdale, Oregon and planted fruit trees, shade trees, roses and conifers.
The Hillsboro Farm
Seven years later his business continued to grow. Dan moved the nursery to Corbet, Oregon, where he purchased 40 acres along Gordon Creek. His sales were on the rise thanks to the added acreage, but his crop suffered through harsh, windy winters in the Columbia Gorge. He decided he needed a farm outside of the Gorge winds, and in 1965 he purchased 178 acres in Hillsboro, Oregon. Dan planted shade and flowering trees on the Hillsboro farm – the same varieties Speer & Sons is known for today.
Between 1972 and 1976 Dan bought two more adjacent parcels of land in Hillsboro, bringing his farm to a total of 375 acres. During that time, Dan’s sons Patrick and Mike began working with him at the nursery. Patrick and Mike shared the Speer family passion for trees and worked closely with their father to learn the business, just as Dan had worked with his father.
Through the late 70’s and into the mid 1980’s the nursery industry was booming. By that time Patrick and Mike were running most of the family business, leaving Dan free to retire. Reluctant to leave the business he loved, he told his family he wanted to find a small farm to keep as a hobby. He said he was looking for about ten acres.
The Woodburn Farm
When Dan announced that he bought a 500-acre farm between Woodburn and St. Paul it came as a surprise to the whole family. Between Hillsboro and Woodburn there were almost 900 acres to operate – much more than the 375 acres they were managing at the time. His sons worried that they wouldn’t be able to maintain a farm of that size, but Dan knew they would make it work. He decided he wasn’t quite ready for retirement after all.
The Woodburn farm was purchased in 1980 with the first crop planted in 1981. That same year, Mike left Speer & Sons to become an outside salesman, and for the next three years Dan and Patrick maintained operations at both locations. Hillsboro was used as a B&B and bare root farm, while the majority of Speer & Sons’ bare root crop was planted in Woodburn. In 1984, the Speers decided to move all production to Woodburn and transition Hillsboro to strictly B&B.
A few years later Dan slowly and reluctantly began his actual retirement. Still not ready to leave the business he loved, he came back each summer to work at the farm. During the early 2000’s Patrick’s children started working at the nursery. They were fortunate to spend many summers working alongside their grandfather until he passed away in 2010. Dan spent his entire life working in the nursery industry and was still working in the months before his passing.
Coming Full Circle
Speer & Sons remained in Woodburn until 2013 when Patrick and his son Dan, who was named after his grandfather, moved the nursery back to Hillsboro. The housing market was in decline, which triggered a decrease in demand for the nursery industry, and the amount of acreage on the Hillsboro farm seemed to be a better fit for the business at the time.
By 2016 the market had recovered and Speer & Sons purchased a new farm in Canby, Oregon. The nursery expanded its operations to keep up with the growing market and the business is now headquartered at the Canby farm.
With over 70 years in the nursery industry, Speer & Sons has gone through many changes but the heart of the business remains the same. The nursery currently grows over 180 varieties of shade and flowering trees, having grown many of those varieties since 1965. It is still owned and operated by a father and son, just as it was in the beginning. And the Speers still wake up every morning with the same passion for growing trees.