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A day in the (very busy) life of Farrill’s Sunrise Nursery

Owner Luke Farrill poses in a covered area for plants and trees near the nursery’s greenhouse. (Hudson Star-Observer photos by Chuck Nowlen)1 / 2
The main sign near the nursery’s entrance. Behind it is the family house where Luke Farrill grew up.2 / 2

One minute, it’s a professional landscaper. The next, it’s a savvy do-it-yourselfer.

Soon a master gardener stops in. Then it’s a rank amateur who doesn’t quite know what to do.

There isn’t a free minute these days at Farrill’s Sunrise Nursery, which has grown from a small local landscape company to a full-service hub for all of western Wisconsin and the Twin Cities Metro.

“Excuse me, I’ll be right back,” a very polite Luke Farrill tells a Hudson Star-Observer reporter when a customer needs help during an interview. “I’ve got to take care of this. It’ll just take a couple minutes.”

The customer comes first, after all. The nursery business also is in Farrill’s blood.

He grew up in the neat, grey family house that still stands near the nursery’s entrance at 599 County UU in Hudson. His father, Tom Farrill, started Sunrise Nursery in 1980, and Luke was a “go-get-it guy” by the age of “probably 4 or 5.”

He’s worked here as an employee since he was 15, so by now he knows it all inside-out. He took the five-acre business over in 2009, three years before his dad died on Nov. 12, 2012. Luke will never forget the exact date.

His mother Terri still works here four or five days week with the rest of the nursery’s seasoned team.

“A couple of people have been here since I was a kid. Some were here with my dad at the beginning,” Luke notes when he’s done with his customer.

Asked what keeps Sunrise Nursery thriving year after year, from the first bright hints of spring through the last warm gasps of fall, he mentions things like: the business’s anything-and-everything inventory; its many services, including bulk-hardscapes loading, tree planting and delivery; and its change-with-the-market new wrinkles – like this year’s addition, full-service landscape design.

But what really connects Sunrise Nursery to its customers is service, Farrill says.

“That’s what people tell us,” he adds. “Customer service and quality. Just knowing what’s here, and people can talk to someone that really knows what’s going on with what we do.”

Maybe that’s why you won’t see Luke’s job title anywhere on his business card or the company’s website,

All you see on the site’s “Our team” page are all the names of the Sunrise Nursery family, listed alphabetically. The others: Tom Clemens, Emily Dusek, Aimee Ebnet, John Fenn, Timothy Fern, Tony Hennes, Claire Madden, Erin Maher, Michelle Millin, Nicole Norvold and Xiong Vang.

Six more -- Vannessa Blumeester, Mackenzie Erickson, Ellyssa Ganilla, Katie Smaglik, Matt Wang and Elyssa Zaspel -- are new.

All are gardening and/or landscape experts in their own right.

Now a beloved former employee drops by -- master gardener JoAnne Ryan, who will teach a new class later this summer on landscape and garden design for beginners.

She and Luke chat a bit, and when he explains the Star-Observer article in the works, JoAnne beams and suggests to the reporter, “You could say, ‘Sunrise is breaking new ground by offering classes in August.’”

Farrill notes, “JoAnne worked here for seven years,” and Ryan adds a gentle tease: “Since before you were out of college.”

Look for dates, times and other sign-up details on Ryan’s new class soon.

Farrill returns to the interview, emphasizing Sunrise’s mulch inventory (“We’ve got hardwood to cedar and everything in-between”); its broad selection of plants, perennials and annuals; and its impressive array of fruit trees and others.

“Gardening has just kept going up here,” he adds. “A lot more people are growing their own fruits and veggies.”

Two or three more customers show up before the interview concludes. One asks about lawn chemicals; another wonders where to find a certain type of bark; still another calls about a scheduled delivery. “Oh, yeah. It’ll be there tomorrow,” Farrill answers.

And that’s how it is at Farrill’s Sunrise Nursery during the growing season -- seven days a week, except for the Fourth of July, for seven or eight months a year. They’re also open over the Christmas season for trees, wreaths, etc.

Asked whether he considers his business “Hudson’s nursery” after 34 years, Farrill answers with a subdued grin, “Oh yes.” A few minutes later, he poses for a quick photo, shakes hands warmly and goes on with the rest of his long, busy day.

For more information, check out the company website or call (715) 386-5554.

Chuck Nowlen

Chuck Nowlen joined the Star-Observer team as a business, township and general-assignment reporter in April, 2014 after a three-decade career in newspapers and magazines, and as a newsroom-management/business-planning consultant.

(715) 808-8286