Paraphrased from an article written by Mary Tracy for The Carrollton Free Press Standard:
If you've ever dreamed of owning a house and tree farm in the country, you might want to take some "lessons" from Tom and Marcy Herbert. The couple owns Herberts’ Pine Hollow Tree Farm approximately 7 miles outside of Carrollton. The farm currently sells thousands of wholesale dug and cut trees to landscapers, nurseries, and Christmas tree retailers.
What began as a fun way for Tom and Marcy to spend weekends in the country with friends and family has literally grown into a wholesale-only family tree farm business and...a fun way to spend time in the country with their five adult children and nine grandkids!
Tom, a retired professor from the University of Akron, explains that an older couple, who were friends and astute business people, approached him and Marcy in 1970, asking if they would like to go in on purchasing an abandoned farm they had seen advertised for sale in Carroll County.
Tom says he and Marcy went into it with the idea they'd have a place for weekends with their young children and also have a fun time with good friends. Later, the two couples decided to split the farm, with the older couple choosing a 100 acre section and the Herberts choosing 40 acres with the abandoned house, barn and several smaller outbuildings.
Tom, Marcy, and their five children, Dave, Mark, Jeanne, Lisa and Krista, who ranged in ages from two to 10 years old, began spending weekends in sleeping bags within the old Civil War-era farmhouse.
Marcy picks up the story here, telling how the house was "less than ready" for comfortable weekends in the country. She describes how dingy and dark the long forgotten house was when they first walked through it. Tom says he knew it was worth saving when he realized the siding and 2x4s were solid oak and the walls were six inches thick. Both admit it was quite an undertaking to roll up their sleeves and start tearing down brush and briars that had overrun the entire farm that had been sleeping, abandoned for 15 years. They also chuckle about the "critters" that had decided the house suited them fine too. Luckily, the Herberts did not give up easily.
The couple, along with their young children, all pitched in on weekends and throughout the summer months, with Professor Herbert and family enjoying and learning the satisfaction of a hard day's work and the fun of "making do" or creating and decorating through frugality and ingenuity.
Tom found some windows in a field nearby and frugally used the glass to replace several tar-papered broken windows at the house. Marcy laughs as she tells how she sometimes "discovered" suitable furniture for their weekend house as she traveled through North Canton neighborhoods during trash collection days. Several of the pine cabinets and chairs she lovingly painted or refurbished are now much-loved pieces at the tree farm home.
A crumbling brick fireplace located inconveniently in the center of a wall that made up the small galley kitchen was dismantled and the inner wall removed so the family could enjoy a large living room/kitchen area. The family laughs as they recall how they had lived in the house for a year before they found out the overgrown wisteria vines were hiding a secret. When they got out their pruning shears and began tearing away the vines, Marcy says she was delighted to find there was a porch attached to the side of the house! The family enclosed the porch with a wall of windows, which Marcy enthusiastically points out, changed the downstairs from dark and dingy to light and welcoming.
Over the years, the Herbert family has plastered walls, built a dormer, added windows and paneling, and lovingly turned the 1800s farmhouse into a warm, inviting family home.
Taking on the remodeling of the farmhouse and barn might have been enough projects for one family, but the Herberts weren't done yet.
A casual conversation with a neighbor who suggested if Tom were to plant a few trees under the power line area of the farm he could probably sell them and the profits would pay the land taxes, planted a seed of an idea that grew into the Herberts’ Pine Hollow Tree Farm, which today encompasses 360-plus acres!
Tom says neighbors and other tree farmers helped the Herberts learn all about tree farming. All of the Herberts praise their Carroll County neighbors for their kindness and friendliness. Dave Herbert comments, "People down here have more in common, we all have land, are working similarly, so they check in on things, care for their neighbors, it's also a slower pace, I think." Lisa(Herbert) Vaughn adds, "I feel like we have more friends and know more of our neighbors here, but it’s because they take time to help out, we all have the same amount of minutes in a day, but here in Carroll County, people are friendlier, take time to visit. You just don't get those same neighborly ways that often in a city."
Tom credits his full-time field foreman, Josh Hartong, with keeping the daily operations running smoothly, with 4-5 high school kids also hired during the busy months. Two of the Herberts' five adult children, Dave and Lisa and Lisa’s husband Scott Vaughn, help out regularly, with Dave helping with the field work and Lisa handling the payroll. Tom proudly smiles as he relates that all their children have helped out whenever needed over the years, and now the nine grandchildren --- Greg, Doug, Corie, Madeline, Mark, Jack, Julia, Briana and Kelsey --- have shown interest in helping to keep the tree farm within the family for a third generation.