Tree farm

I need some advice on starting a tree farm. I am in the preliminary process of putting together a plan but need a little more information to get it together. I am in MN, northern suburb of the twin cities and I have a lake place in central minnesota. I have been successful planting trees on my lake lot and have always dreamed of a tree farm and the thought of it being a business even sounds better. I know of two pepole with farms...one x-mas tree and one for replanting. neither are very successful but the replanting farmer has an in because he also takes trees down, so he just sells them a new one. I know the return would be years from now but the investment in land here would be good and with the proper care of a farm could produce future returns. I am in the position to purchase land...not 500 acres! maybe 10. and maybe more in the future. I travel to central Mn alot where it would be more affordable, there may be a small market for the trees there. Any thoughts, tips or advice are welcome. thank you Chris Future tree farmer Mn.
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chris wrote:

It strikes me you have a rather vague idea of what a "tree farmer" does. I can't tell from your comments whether you want to start a tree nursery, or plant a woodlot. The former means growing trees for resale, the latter means growing trees for lumber. Here are just a few facts that may help guide you thinking. HTH
a) Christmas trees take 5 to 20 years to grow to saleable size, or so I've been told, and must be trimmed and shaped at least once every year. Most are sold at 8 to 12 years of age. You may have to fertilise and water them, too. And you have to replant every year, to ensure a continuing crop once you start harvesting. From what I've heard a successful Christmas tree farm operator say, you need to sell a minimum of several hundred trees per season to make a reasonable return on your time and money. And you need to think in terms of 1,000 trees per year or more if you want to make a reasonable living.
b) Hardwoods (oak, maple, walnut, etc) need 40 years and more to grow big enough to saw for lumber.
c) Nursery grown trees are saleable at ages 5 to 10 years. Younger trees may not have proven themselves hardy enough, older trees may be too big. They also need to be pruned to a pleasing shape, etc.
d) If you want to grow fruit or ornamental trees for resale, you will also need to learn grafting, pest control, etc.
IMO, you will have to have a day job for quite a while before you can make a living from a tree farm. But good luck and best wishes!
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On Mon, 27 Feb 2006 19:32:59 -0800, chris wrote:

Good day Chris. Sounds like you got big plans there, good for you. I would recommend that you call your local ag rep. Here's a list for you:
http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/cropsystems/DC8125.html
I'm sure that there is some sort of tree farm program in your state. I would also recommend that you look for tree farm organizations such as the American Tree Farm System:
http://www.treefarmsystem.org/index.cfm
Last resort, google tree farming and see what turns up.
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Chris, Tim gave you very a very good reply. I have owned 3 tree farms and made more money on the land than on the trees.
My first planting was a new wood lot in Pennsylvania on farmland behind our home. A state forester told me what tree varieties to plant, a paper pulp company gave me the trees and a federal forestation plan paid me to plant them. The first thing I learned here was to carry the trees around in a bucket of muddy water when planting. If the roots dry out the tree is dead. The trees come bare root packed in sphagnum moss. You take out as many as you can plant in a reasonable amount of time. I planted about 50 per hour with a hazel hoe in very rocky soil. I had to dig two holes for each tree; one for the tree and one to get soil to fill up the first one. The plan was to plant the trees every 8 foot and then after 20 years sell 3/4 of the trees for paper pulp so they would then be on a 16 foot spacing, suitable for timber production. The trees are pine, spruce and larch. The trees all did well, but I never opened the forest up to logging. It is now 40 years later and they could be harvested, but we want a forest. This forest surrounds our home with the pine and spruce closest to give a green background all year long. It will not be cut.
My second plantation was a Christmas tree farm. I cleared the land and then planted various types of fir on 6 foot centers. The fir were very slow to develop, but produced beautiful trees. I had to clear the field of weeds and grass every year. I used a garden tractor mower and a weed eater. I also had to prune the trees every fall. The state inspected the trees every year for disease. I became a certified pesticide applicator. I ran a choose and cut operation. It was not a big money maker but was a fun business. I did everything on weekends before hunting season started. (not because I hunted, but because I didn't want to get shot) The return on labor was very small, but it was good healthy work. After taking almost 15 years to get established, I got about 15 years of sustained production. The Christmas trees were eventually destroyed about 10 years ago by deer during a couple winters with heavy snow. They either killed them by either eating them or with buck-rubs. I didn't have the time or desire to start over so I am not in the Christmas tree business any more.
My third tree farm was a wood lot in Maine. It had two creeks and highway frontage. It had been harvested in the past. It was replanted and was reestablishing itself. After thirty years we hired a forester to mark a timber improvement project to basically cut about 3/4 of the trees to permit a much better forest to develop. We found a logger that agreed to carry out our plan. The logger did a great job until the job was almost finished. Then the logger came in with a crew and stripped the land of just about everything he could sell. The forester matched the stumps with the logs at the mills so we had a good record of how much timber he had rustled. However the timber rustling laws in Maine have no teeth. The guy was ordered to make restitution but has only paid about 25% of what he owed and has quit paying since he knows nothing is going to happen to him. That money went to pay the forester and the attorney. I can't even make a tax deduction for the loss since I would have to give my SS# to him on a 1099 and I refuse to give the crook such information. The forester has quit working with outside loggers and only manages what he can handle himself. The timber rustling didn't hurt the price of the land since we sold it for better than market price, an increase of over 10 times what we paid for it.
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Stephen Henning wrote:

Carl
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Carl 1 Lucky Texan wrote: [...]

IMO tree rustlers should be run through a sawmill. Slowly.
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...using a dull blade.
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find out where the bastard is next logging and go and drive some iron stakes into the trees. With a bit of luck his chainsaw may meet one and from there meet his head.
rob
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Thanks for the info...that was great. I just returned from the north woods, I had looked at a few lots up there. Very nice for planting, one was actually a farm split up into small acerage. I cant believe the price though 20 acres for 60 thousand. way out of my price league. I'm going to keep looking though. Myself I dont plan to get rich, I know the land investment would be the money in the long run but planting some trees and watching them grow would be very rewarding for me and my kids..."nothing ventured nothing gained" Thanks again Chris
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What we did 40 year ago was get a real estate catalog for the whole country. It listed lots and at that time desert land in the SW as very expensive and woodland in Maine was very cheap ($50/acre). We invested in 40 acres of woodland in Maine and it appreciated to $875/acre. It is still depressed. But my point is to look for good land at a low price that you can enjoy and it is certain to go up in the long run. Avoid areas where speculation has already started. Usually large acreages are cheaper than subdivided lots.
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