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The Treeman Cometh

By DAVID AQUINO The Pioneer Valley News (July/August Publication)

Article Pioneer Valley News Jim McSweeney

After living the rugged, often dangerous life of an Alaskan fisherman, Jim McSweeney moved to Massachusetts where he worked a short stint in sales in Easthampton. It was a substantial career shift that didn’t require him to risk his life and limb, but sales were a bore.

So, about fifteen years ago, Jim dove into what would become his life’s profession and passion as an arborist, horticulturist and small business owner of Hilltown Tree & Garden, based in Chesterfield. “I didn’t have much to start with,” said Jim. “The business grew incrementally and I took all my bumps early on.”

While Jim is no longer pitching around in 50-foot waves in the middle of the frigid ocean, he can still be found at heights much greater than this in the trees around western Massachusetts. “The sky’s the limit if you have the right harness and roping, ” he said.

Everyday on his way to work, he considers every tree he passes by. He can tell you the species, which ones are stressed, their approximate age, and the special role each one plays in their local environment.

Article Pioneer Valley News Formal Garden Designs

“I can pick out rare or odd looking species as I’m driving down the highway,” he said, “like a hunter who can spot a deer out of the corner of his eye. It is not a six sense, but a learned one.”

Hilltown Tree & Garden’s areas of expertise include diagnostics and consulting, maintaining perennial gardens, pruning and treating stressed trees, and organic fertilizing. As far as general landscaping is concerned, Jim prefers to go plant-based in his designs, which means less placement of heavy stone (not to say that Jim hasn’t done his fair share of stone patios).

Jim believes a slow agricultural revival is happening nationwide, with a returning interest in locally produced foods, farmer’s markets, grow-your-own produce and farming co-ops, and he said the limitations of corporate agriculture are becoming mainstream knowledge.

“There is a philosophy called permaculture,” said Jim, “where you try your best to mimic nature, and not force things.”

Jim said edible gardening is a topic of late that has been turning heads in the valley. This design, vegetables planted, with perennials and herbs mixed in, ornamentals, berries, and fruit trees are not just aesthetic but beneficial. “Oddly enough, people are more interested in edibles,” said Jim.

To talk to Jim about your next landscape project, call 413-582-4088 or visit d.hilltowntreeandgarden.com.

-David Aquino

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