Drive up to Mr. Jack’s Tree Farm, and chances are you’ll be greeted enthusiastically by Dakota and Fanny, two of the friendly farm dogs, or by one of the equally friendly owners or staff. Want an exotic fruit tree or ornamental that differs from any of your neighbors’ on the block? Or perhaps some fast-growing evergreens to serve as a privacy screen? “We have quite a variety of trees to meet every need,” said Casey Bolen, owner and manager of the business.
In fact, Mr. Jack’s farm has over 30 varieties of apple trees alone! Patrons can also purchase peach, plum, persimmon, pecan and pear trees, and with a bit of guidance from the staff, produce a fruit harvest that lasts throughout the whole summer. “Different varieties ripen at different times,” explained Bolen, “so you can have fruit ready to pick in June, July, and August.”
Bolen is the grandson of “Mr. Jack Turpin,” who founded the farm in 1979 and lived there until he passed away last year. Turpin originally owned about a hundred acres, but sold about seventy acres for residential development. “Back in the 80’s, the farm was considered “out in the country,” said Bolen. “There was nothing out here, no development.” Located just a tenth of a mile off of Highway 49 in bustling Steele Creek, the farm has since been surrounded by homes, apartments and retail stores, and is a convenient place for customers to stop.
Accessed through the Steelecroft neighborhood, it is hard to believe that a farm could be found in the midst of its current surroundings. But once the customers turn in the farm’s entrance, they are magically transported to an idyllic setting as the drive winds around a large pond brimming with fish, ducks and turtles. Flowers bloom around the perimeter of the pond, and a swinging bridge is currently being installed spanning the north end. Benches overlooking the water encourage folks to sit a spell and take in the beauty of the outdoors.
Turpin lived on the farm and began planting and raising trees as a hobby. That hobby grew into a business, and Turpin was renowned for his hospitality, customer service and generosity. Turpin maintained an orchard for display of mature trees, and shared the fruit harvest with friends and customers.
Bolen seeks to continue that hospitality. “We encourage our customers and community to come out and enjoy the farm,” he said. “We have people who come out here to walk, fish in the pond, and just relax.”
Bolen grew up in Fort Mill, and spent a lot of his childhood at the farm. “I remember all sorts of family celebrations on this property. Birthdays, anniversaries, picnics. I want to share this place with others,” he said.
Bolen began working with his grandfather when he was 16, and learned about raising and caring for trees of all types. Bolin later earned his certification as an arborist.
Bolen, who is in his twenties, has enlisted the help of three friends to help run Mr. Jack’s Farm and market their services. “We live together in one of the farm homes built by my grandfather, and use the house as an office as well,” said Bolen. Social media, a snazzy website and event planning are some of the ways Bolen and his team are breathing new life into the business.
“We had a food truck event in the spring to celebrate Arbor Day and invited the community out to see the farm,” said Bolen. “Several hundred people came, many for the first time. Some live in our neighborhood and never realized we were here.” In the future, the team at Mr. Jack’s plans to hold live music events, pumpkin patch parties, and perhaps provide a venue for weddings, reunions and corporate events.
But for now, the primary business is trees. Over 200 varieties of trees are offered at the farm. Bolen and his staff are eager to help customers select the types that meet their needs. When a customers arrive at the farm, they may be chauffeured around the property in one of the golf carts to see the variety of trees available.
Bolen helps the customer design a plan for their landscaping. “Sometimes customers will bring in drawings or pictures of their yards, but I also like to visit their property and look at the space for myself. I brainstorm with the customer and come up with a design that fits the space,” he said.
If desired, Bolen and his staff can deliver and plant the trees. “We provide education to the customer as well. How and when to water, what to watch for in terms of pests or disease, that sort of thing,” he said.
Fall is the ideal time for planting most trees, and Mr. Jack’s Farm is open to the public Monday – Saturday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Check their Facebook page or www.MrJacksFarm.com for fun, family events coming soon.