Michael Martin Meléndrez, the founder and owner of Trees That Please, Soil Secrets and the Arboretum Tomé
Who is Michael?
Michael Martin Melendrez grew up in Las Cruces New Mexico, working alongside his brother Pat and their father Sam Melendrez on the family farm, irrigating, hoeing weeds, and cutting and baling hay. Michael and Pat also learned how to work hard for other people as they worked as farm laborers in the onion fields and packing sheds as a teenagers. Sam also taught Michael and his sisters how to work in his lapidary shop, cutting and polishing turquoise stones, giving his kids a great sense of pride and accomplishment. Sam Melendrez inspired Michael’s interest in soil as he spoke often about the soil on the family farm and how his father and grandfather respected it and tried to make it a better soil.
It was 1968 when Sam was teaching Michael how to judge soil for the upcoming State 4-H contests when he said to his son, “Michael, everything we do in farming is wrong and it destroys this (as he held a handful of soil taken from a hole he just dug), we need to do a better job of taking care of our soil.” Michael’s dad was a 5th generation farmer on the same land and a dealer of John Deere farm equipment, so his words were a powerful message to Michael. As a result of Sam Melendrez training Michael on how to judge soil, Michael went on to win a Blue Ribbon at the State 4-H contests that year. In his first year of college in 1974 at New Mex-ico State University Michael wrote a paper for a class titled ‘Soil Ecology and the Soil Food Web’ where he described what today is accepted by soil scientists world wide as an accurate description of how nitrogen flows through the trophic levels of soil. It’s possible that this paper is the first time the phrase Soil Food Web was used. Years after Michael’s 4-H victory in soil judging, Sam Melendrez helped Michael start a tree growing business with a retail nursery called Trees That Please. In the following early years of Trees That Please Michael, his wife Kari, his father, mother, brother, sisters and in-laws helped in the planting of thousands of trees each spring, creating a pipeline of future tree inventory for the nursery. Since the early days of father and son working side by side, Trees That Please Nursery has focused for over 35 years on the production of Southwestern native hardwood trees that are appropriate for arid zone landscaping. From the beginning of his business career Michael remembered his father’s words about caring for the soil and as his knowledge of chemistry and soil science grew he began to understand that fertilizers and many of the strong chemicals sold to farmers and homeowners were destructive to the health of soil, so Michael made a choice to never use or sell these products in his retail nursery. Starting three decades ago Michael began developing products that could be used to grow his trees and also support his customers efforts to improve the health of their soil, so his trees stood a better chance of success. This led to the founding of a new company called Soil Secrets LLC. The objective of Soil Secrets was to research and develop biomimetic products that could fix the ecology of soil which would then grow healthier landscapes and more productive crops. Today Soil Secrets LLC is the industry’s leading Biomimetic Soil Ecology company and is used by the largest pecan growers in the United States and Mexico, potato farms in Idaho and Montana, and wine growers in Mexico. His products are specified in mine reclamation and used in the construction of LEED Certified Green Building landscapes.
During the process of developing these biomimetic products, Michael became the first person ever to unravel the mystery of the carbon matrix molecular substance of soil often called humic acid of soil, the black stuff that defines the essence of a healthy and productive topsoil. He conducted Proof of Concept research with the Technology Transfer Programs of Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories and the New Mexico Consortium Labs, where he’s proving he can fix the many soil problems found across the globe.
His Trees That Please nursery is still growing, still uses only Soil Secrets biomimicry and still producing Native of trees of the Southwest.