It’s Always Been Plants
At Peace Tree Farm, It has always been about plants. Candy Traven never had a dog growing up; instead she had a begonia immense. Imbued with the magic of plants from a young age by her grandmother, one of Candy’s first memories is of light filtering through the begonia’s beautifully fuzzy and textured leaves. Candy gave Lloyd Traven a potted coleus plant shortly after meeting in college. Lloyd called Candy frantically saying the plant had wilted, Candy suggested he water it and at that point, Lloyd too discovered the magic of plants. From then on, it was always plants together. Candy and Lloyd knew they wanted to have a greenhouse one day but little did they know that greenhouse would go on to grow more than just plants, it would foster a thriving business of over 40 years and a life of passion and purpose.
A one-inch long classified ad from a local newspaper advertising a property with land and a working greenhouse was the next page in the story of Peace Tree Farm and the Travens. From that small notice, Candy and Lloyd negotiated a deal and moved to the property in Kintnersville, Pennsylvania in May of 1983. They got right to work laying the foundation for a business of growing great plants. In the beginning, Candy and Lloyd grew 4” foliage pots of begonias, ivies, herbs, and flowering plants like streptocarpus, gerber daisies and gloxinia. They set themselves up for success by identifying their customers before deciding what to grow. Candy applied her practical and design knowledge from working and selling for other growers while Lloyd applied his institutional perspective from his work as Assistant to the President for Special Projects for Ball Seed. From the start, they differentiated themselves by not growing the classic bedding plants in cell packs but always in potted plants. The use of a round pot over the industry standard squat square pot created a perceived value that made their plants stand out. Growing and having unusual plants was always their game plan. They did not want to compete with everyone else. Above all, it was about quality. When producing a plant, they always asked themselves if the plants were good enough for themselves, “would I buy this?”
Guided by an Environmental Consciousness
Right alongside quality plants, environmental consciousness has been a foundational principle and commitment of the business. From day one, they utilized recycled plastics and installed an ebb and flood system to recirculate irrigation water. In 2009 Peace Tree Farm was one of the earliest greenhouse growers to become Certified Organic committing to safe and sustainable growing practices. Lloyd and now led by Alex Traven, have developed one of the most successful and longest running biocontrol programs as an ecosystem based approach to pest management. Most recently, Peace Tree has completed the installation of several solar arrays to sustainably power their operations.
Growing More Than Great Plants
From the beginning, Lloyd and Candy did everything, the growing, delivering, maintenance, and office work. With time came growth. Over the last 40 years, Peace Tree Farm has grown into one of the most innovative and technologically savvy operations in the industry leveraging the pairing of Lloyd’s scientific background with Candy’s intuitive knowledge. The company expanded from the row of gutter connected plastic greenhouses to a high tech glass Nexus house built in 2004. All along the way, it has been about finding balance. Finding the right people to support the business while figuring out the infrastructure and processes to make it all sustainable.
Peace Tree Farm grew out of great roots and was fostered by purpose. The plants that they grew always have to have a purpose. Does it bring you joy, is it of service to someone? These are the questions that have guided the Travens and their team of staff. From the business management to the end product, it’s all about the necessity you bring to the world. For Candy, it’s going out at the end of the day to do plant maintenance as a meditation, when the sun filters through the greenhouse at just the right time. It’s about finding and attracting people to work alongside that mindset of celebrating the magic AND necessity of plants. As Candy states, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever, and that’s what we do.”
Lloyd, Candy, Alex, and the greater Peace Tree Family will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of Peace Tree Farm on May 1, 2023. It is a time to celebrate and reflect on the growth and success of the business gleaning all the lessons learned from plants, people, and business while preparing for the continued evolution of the business into the future.