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Possibly Starting a Tree Farm?

sgbotsford

LawnSite Member
Location
Alberta, Canada
I've done it. I'm doing it. I make a living at it.

1. Field trees and container trees are very different operations. Different trees, different tools, different employees, different markets.

2. Field trees are the easier ones, but require more money. If you are selling landscape trees you want a skidsteer mounted spade. There are a bunch of different spade types:

* a potting spade has different shaped shovels and will cut a plug to fit a pot.You have to adjust it for different pots.

* A baskets spade creates a truncated cone for a basket. Some can be adjsuted for different sized baskets (Feet on the frame to keep the frame off the ground.

The most common residential tree is in a 32" basket. That's about 400 pounds or so, and requires a tractor/skid steer or a football team to install. A 24" basket can handle 2 to 2.5" leaf trees and 2-3 meter conifers. This is the top end of a tree that can be installed by a DIY.

If you go with container growing you can get up to 3" caliper in an amaroo tree box or a 15-20 gallon grow bag. If you use a lightweight (bark chip based) medium these are plantable by a homeowner.

Container growing is MUCH more labour intensive, but you don't have 50K tied up in a used bobcat and spade. This is the route I went.

One of the downsides of field grown is that spring is zoo:

* Lifting trees to sell
* Planting repalcements
* Selling
* Shipping orders.

It takes 3-4 people to efficiently use a spade to lift trees. Bobcat operator, guy on the ground to check that you are centered. Guy setting up a basket and liner. Guy closing and tying off the baskets. A good bobcat operator is precious. You need to keep some of these guys busy all year to keep them.

Container based you can use more casual labour. I use high school kids. I try to get new kids in grade 10. About half will work for me for 3 years after school, and part time in the summer. But I like teenagers, and spend a lot of time working with them.

Container based means watering. I water every 3 days. It takes about 80 sprinkler moves. So I do about 24 per day. Takes aobut 45 minutes a day during a heat wave. Could throw a lot more plumbing and a bigger well at it, but that's 40K.
 

TPendagast

LawnSite Fanatic
Additional question- What type of land should I be looking for? Open pasture land or what? If you bought land with planted timber ready for cutting, you could harvest it and use the money left after paying for logging to help with start-up costs on the tree farm. However, I assume the damage done and debris and mess left after logging out a tract of land (not to mention the stumps and problems with soil quality, runoff, etc) would outweigh any benefit you'd gain by cutting timber before starting an ornamental operation.
You do not make money off logging because you’re left with stumps and slash, it’s a mess
After you’re done cleaning it up you have no profit from the logging.
The bonus is the clearing of the land is a wash and doesn’t cost you.
Wooded land is typically cheaper (significantly) than cleared land .

you’ll need 7 acres to operate initially
Try to find 25-40 you can hunt the back 40 and work the front 5

I’d get a trailer to put on it
Trailer lasts 20 years ish
By then you should have been able to build your permanent buildings.
 

Green Mentorship

LawnSite Senior Member
Location
Heaven
I started a Christmas tree farm for sh!ts and giggles at a personal farm I own. It's not really to make income, more to maintain ag tax basis when we build a home. It might make some cash in 10 years though when people come cut their own trees. I can tell you alot of what not to do so far, still trying to find what does work.
 

Crazy 4 grass

LawnSite Fanatic
I started a Christmas tree farm for sh!ts and giggles at a personal farm I own. It's not really to make income, more to maintain ag tax basis when we build a home. It might make some cash in 10 years though when people come cut their own trees. I can tell you alot of what not to do so far, still trying to find what does work.
What should one not do?
 

BrandonV

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
Central NC
I'm a 4th gen nurseryman/landscaper. If I'm honest I would not start a wholesale nursery today. If you have decent farmland by all means farm it. Nursery industry is the only type of farming that you're going to plant something today and HOPE that in 3-15 years there will be a market for it. When I was growing up in the 80s/90s (39 this year) the wholesale price for a 3 gallon azalea was ~$6-10 the current wholesale price for that same azalea is about the same. To be a good container nursery you're going to spend $$$ on potting machines, need lots of seasonal labor (where you'll find it i don't know) and etc.

If you have any type of disaster- hurricane, fire, housing market collaspe like 2007 the government is going to bail out all the dairy/tobacco/corn farmers around but the nurserymen will be left to dry it's just the way it is. When beef prices crater you can still sell the cows at a loss vs i had to spend 30k on a forestry head to cut down trees that missed their harvest window

That said you can probably find a niche in selling specialized things OR if you're nursery is an affluent area you can do well but that means the land is going to cost more etc. Don't let me come off as a all hope is lost guy I just want you to realize most will fail and it's an expensive fail.
 
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