Written by Mark Halla
March 30, 2005
On October 24, 2003, (my 38th Birthday), I made the decision to resign as President of Halla Nursery, Inc., and start a new company. The decision had been in the back of my mind for several years but it wasn't an easy one to make.
Halla Nursery was started by my grandparents in 1942 and had always been a family business. I was the only third generation family member involved in the company, I had been with the company for the last 14 years of my life, and I had worked very hard to help grow the company from nearly defunct to one of the largest retail Garden Centers and Landscape Nurseries in MN. I felt an extreme obligation to my employees and the thought of leaving them to fend for themselves was troublesome to me. As I pondered the situation, I became very depressed and I realized that I really had no other option but to leave. You see, back in 1996 I truly accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior and, from that time forward, God began convicting me of my sin and refining me to be more like him. As I evaluated my life, I saw needed change everywhere I looked! I began what I'm sure will be a lifetime of change and improvement and I was convicted that I needed to be fully aligned with God or I wasn't really aligned at all. This meant that some definite changes needed to be made in me personally and in the way I operated Halla Nursery. After struggling for some time, I eventually realized that in order to make all of the changes I felt the Lord was calling me to make, I had no choice but to trust in God alone and leave all of the security, the money, the benefits, and the companionship behind-I had to start a new company, founded on Godly principles, dedicated to bringing God the honor and glory He deserves, focused on giving rather than taking.
The birth of The Mustard Seed was November 19, 2003 when I filed the corporate documents with the State of Minnesota. Our first season began in April, 2004. Initially, it was just Kay and me working out of our home office (the basement), hoping and praying a lot! Although we didn't have very much money, we had good credit and we purchased over $300,000 in trucks and equipment. It quickly became apparent that we needed more help and we prayed some more. Suddenly, we heard from several past employees that they were looking for new jobs and, the next thing we knew, we had everyone we needed, Praise God!
Our business flourished right from its infancy, and we felt and saw God's provision everywhere we looked. We had promised ourselves that we wouldn't contact past customers, but our home phone seemed to be constantly ringing as past friends and customers sought us out. There were even three different occasions when we had no work for the following Monday (or anytime after that) and the phone rang on a Friday, Saturday and even a Sunday evening with customers that wanted us to start the next week (day)-and those jobs were large projects that each filled an entire week, allowing us to sell some more jobs and create a backlog. Our first year required us to rely on and trust God more than ever before causing Kay and I to grow closer to one another and, most importantly, closer to God. To me, God went from being my sometimes distant Father in Heaven to my ever present Daddy on earth, always with me, always protecting me, always providing for me, always guiding me, and always loving me. I truly felt (and feel) His promise to never leave nor forsake me! From the beginning, we knew that The Mustard Seed was the path God had laid out for us and that we were destined for this time and place-but we still needed to get out of the basement!
Our exit from the basement came unexpectedly when a supplier mentioned he knew someone who had just purchased a farm and was looking for a renter. We contacted the man and ended up with a lease with an option to buy 155 Acres in Dahlgren Township. The property worked for us, and seemed to be a provision from God, but I had a distinct feeling that it wasn't our final resting place.
Several years earlier, well before leaving Halla Nursery, I had a dream of some rolling farmland with trees and ravines and a creek running through it. In the dream, I had the impression that God was showing me the land He had chosen for me and that I should trust Him and buy it. Although I wasn't planning on leaving Halla at that time, I presumed that buying land was a good investment and that I should keep my eyes open. Now, several years after the dream, I couldn't help but remember it and wonder where that promised land was. As I drove to the newly leased farm, I always passed a home that had a large white cross against the barn. I remember thinking how "cool" it was that someone would be as bold about their faith as to put a cross out next to the highway.
One day, however, as I drove by that cross, I felt compelled to call the owners and ask them if they would consider selling their property. They were right on Highway 212 and our newly leased farm was a mile off of 212. It seemed like a better location and I figured it couldn't hurt to ask. So I wrote down the address as I drove by, fired up the Internet when I got home, found their phone number, and called them. Their names were Tom and Mary. When I called, Mary answered and said I would need to speak with Tom but that she might consider selling. Tom quickly indicated that the land wasn't for sale and that when the new highway was completed he would sell it for a lot of money. "OK, wait a minute, I thought to myself, I forgot to pray about this." I shot up an arrow prayer and then asked Tom if he would give me 10 minutes of his time and let me stop by and talk to him in person. He begrudgingly agreed and we set a time.
When I arrived, Tom was in the middle of a busy day and I could tell I was a bit of a disruption-a big bit of a disruption! I silently prayed that Tom would at least hear me out. We ended up talking for quite some time when I was eventually invited into the house where I met Mary-a woman who fits her name very well, I might add. Mary had a peace about her that made it evident she was Spirit-filled and overflowing. I remember thinking to myself, "well, Tom can't be that bad if he's got a wife like Mary, maybe this is just a bad day for him." Now, I realize what an understatement I made to myself, Tom and Mary are one of the finest couples I know! As I was about to leave, Tom began telling me about the pond on the far end of the property that was created when he dammed up the creek that ran through the bottom of the ravines. I didn't think much about it until he said "and the creek seems to run year round, I think its spring fed". Then it hit me, my dream, this is the land, the land I dreamed about! I knew in my heart that this was it, but Tom and Mary didn't know yet. I wasn't sure how to tell them, so I simply asked them to pray about whether they might sell their land and they agreed they would at least pray.
When I arrived home, I immediately wrote them a thank you letter for at least meeting with me and I put another sealed envelope inside that said "please do not open until you have decided whether to sell your land". Inside the second envelope was a letter describing my dream and telling them that I knew their land was the land we were meant to buy. Several weeks later, I contacted Tom and Mary and they indicated that they had prayed and come to the conclusion that they should offer to sell us their land. They had opened the inner envelope and it served as confirmation that God was leading and guiding each of us.
On March 25, 2005, approximately 6 months after first meeting Tom and Mary, we signed a purchase agreement for 30 acres of land with a farm house and two outbuildings with a scheduled closing date of July 15, 2005. Although the purchase was the most expensive obligation Kay and I had ever entered into, we signed the agreement with such peace it was as if we were agreeing to buy a cup of coffee. From the beginning, we have felt God's presence in our midst, and this purchase was just another step in the right direction.
As if we needed anymore proof of God's goodness, the Lord gave us some more reassurance on March 29, 2005, only 4 days after signing our contract for the land, when Larry from the City of Carver dropped into our office unannounced and said, "we need to drill a test well into what we have heard is a very large aquifer with very good water. Your land on Highway 212 is right over that aquifer. Would you consider allowing us to drill a 6" well approximately 400' deep for testing purposes if we gave you the well when we are completed?" I wondered to myself, is that a rhetorical question? "Yes, I answered, we would be happy to work with you!" It seems that the more we trust in God's goodness and provision, the more provision and goodness He blesses us with!
I can't wait until tomorrow, I'll keep you informed…