New Roots program donates 10 trees to Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary

The donation's estimated value runs upwards of $1,750.

Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary School students Matt, Dayton and Carter help plant a donated tree on their school grounds with James Valley Landscaping Solutions co-owner Andy Jerke. Photo courtesy of Jeff Heppler

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.

That’s the mentality behind James Valley Landscape Solutions’ (JVLS) New Roots program, which donates trees to public places in the Mitchell area to enhance the land the populace enjoys.

This year’s donation — the program’s third annual — saw the installation of 10 trees on the grounds of Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary in Mitchell.

On Friday morning, as the school day began, Jeff Heppler and Andy Jerke, co-owners of the landscaping business, worked with Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary students Matt, Dayton and Carter to plant the trees.

“Those kids were pretty good helpers,” Heppler said with a laugh.


JVLS provided all the machinery and equipment needed for the installation of four Deborah maples, two Greenspire lindens, two Prairie Expedition elms, one Cathedral elm and one Harvest Gold linden, which took about one hour to complete.

The New Roots program, in its third year, was born as Heppler and Jerke were brainstorming how they can make a difference in area towns.

“We were trying to figure out how we could give back to the community,” Heppler said, “and we decided this would be kinda a cool thing to do.”

For every 50 trees JVLS sells, they donate one tree to be installed in any public place in or around Mitchell.

This year, Heppler said the business decided to donate to the Mitchell School District, and Gertie Belle Rogers — with its large open field and lack of foliage on the property’s south side — was selected.

Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary School students (left to right) Matt, Dayton and Carter stand next to a donated tree they helped plant with James Valley Landscaping Solutions co-owner Andy Jerke. Photo courtesy of Jeff Heppler

“Trees have always been really important to plant,” Heppler said. “We’re always saying ‘the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago; the second best time is now.’”


The landscaping business, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last October, values each tree between $150 and $175, totaling Friday’s donation upward of $1750.

In the New Roots program’s first two years, JVLS donated 22 trees to various parks in Mitchell, which Heppler estimates is valued at approximately $3,500.

The program is set to go forward with its donation next year, though a location has yet to be decided.

A South Dakota native, Hunter joined Forum Communications Company as a reporter for the Mitchell (S.D.) Republic in June 2021 and now works as a digital reporter for Forum News Service, focusing on local news in Sioux Falls. He also writes regional news spanning across the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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