How to Start a Tree Farm

How to Start a Tree Farm

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If you own acreage, you should consider starting a tree farm. The American Christmas Tree Association  reports the average price for a tree was $74 in 2017. The average number on a farm was 200 trees equaling $14,800. Looking for a Christmas tree farm for sale is one option.

Here’s how to start a tree farm that grows other kinds too.

Starting a Tree Farm

starting a tree farm

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Buy Some Land or Set Some Aside

It makes sense that the first thing you will need to be a tree farmer is some land. If you already own some acreage, you’ll need to designate a part of your farm for trees. Fallow land that’s not being used for anything else or other crops is best.

If you’re starting from scratch, buying a wooded piece of property can get you started. That way you can sell the lumber that’s already there. Make sure there is only a slight slope to any land you want to buy. That way water will pool slightly and not just run downhill.

Land that’s already been used for a crop is a good buy.

Patience is important. Most types of trees that are worth money take eight years before they are big enough to harvest.

Start a Nursery

One feasible and lucrative route for people interested in starting a tree farm, particularly in an urban setting, is to launch a nursery. A tree nursery essentially involves the cultivation of young trees until they reach a certain age or size where they are suitable for selling or transplantation. This venture typically requires only a few years to produce a significant number of young trees for sale. The idea is to provide customers with a diverse selection of saplings, catering to their specific landscaping or horticulture needs.

Below is a detailed expansion of the necessary steps to establish a successful tree nursery:

  1. Space Assessment: Firstly, evaluate the amount of space you have available. The size of your nursery will dictate the quantity and variety of trees you can grow. Small city lots can still be productive, especially with space-efficient methods like container gardening or vertical farming.
  2. Market Research: Understand your potential customers. Determine what species of trees are in demand in your area. Your potential market could be homeowners looking for ornamental trees, local farmers requiring fruit trees, or companies in need of trees for landscaping projects.
  3. Acquisition of Tree Seeds or Seedlings: Based on your market research, purchase a variety of tree seeds or seedlings that are in demand and suitable for the local climate. You may want to select a mix of fast-growing trees for quicker turnover and slower-growing varieties for long-term investment.
  4. Nursery Set-Up: Prepare the land for planting. Depending on the size of your space and the type of trees you’re growing, you may use containers, raised beds, or directly sow seeds into the ground. Consider installing an irrigation system for efficient watering.
  5. Tree Care: Regular care of the trees is essential. This involves watering, weeding, pruning, and protecting the young trees from pests and diseases. Learning about the specific needs of the tree species you’re growing will be essential.
  6. Marketing and Selling: Once the trees are mature enough to be sold, devise a marketing strategy. This might include advertising online, collaborating with local businesses, or even setting up a roadside stand if your local laws permit.

Starting a nursery offers multiple benefits. In addition to the profit from selling trees, it also contributes to urban green space and provides environmental benefits like carbon sequestration and air purification. Whether it’s a small backyard operation or a larger commercial venture, a tree nursery can be a rewarding and beneficial enterprise.

Decide on the Tree Types

Starting a tree farm begins with some careful decisions. Some people start looking for a Christmas tree farm for sale. But there are other types of trees that you can make money on. Fruit and lumber trees are popular choices, but they don’t grow everywhere.

It all depends on the area of the country where you live. That goes for people who are looking to start an urban tree farm like a nursery too.

If you are wondering how to start a tree farm, you can choose to grow trees for lumber. These need to grow fast and the best choices are hardwood trees like birch and cherry.  Wondering how to start a Christmas tree farm?

These can be ready to go in as little as a decade.

Picking the right market is an important part of deciding what to grow.

Look After the Trees

You might be looking for a Christmas tree farm for sale or starting an apple tree farm. It doesn’t matter since you need to know how to look after your trees.

Applying mulch, watering and fertilizing are critical so they grow. Stake them for the first year so they don’t blow over. And don’t forget to prune them to improve the space between branches.

how to start a tree farm

Choose the Market

If there’s a farmer’s market close, an apple tree farm makes perfect sense. This is a good idea if you decided on trees that grow fruits and nuts too. Talk with local builders if you’re growing trees for lumber.

Greenhouses and nurseries are the people to connect with if you’re going to grow landscaping trees.

Get the Right Equipment

When embarking on the journey to become a tree farmer, one fundamental aspect that can’t be overlooked is the acquisition of the right equipment. Just as a painter needs brushes and a carpenter needs a hammer, a tree farmer too needs specific tools to make the farming process efficient and successful. These essential tools can either be bought or rented, depending on your budget and long-term plans. However, irrespective of your chosen mode of acquisition, you’ll need to shop around to get the best deals and high-quality tools.

Outlined below is an expanded list of the primary tools and equipment you’ll need to successfully run your tree farm:

  1. Shovels and Spades: These are necessary for digging holes for planting, moving dirt, and performing other necessary landscaping tasks.
  2. Pruning Tools: These include pruning shears, loppers, and pruning saws. They are essential for trimming and shaping trees, removing dead or diseased branches, and promoting healthy growth.
  3. Garden Rakes and Hoes: Useful for preparing the soil before planting and maintaining the area around the trees. They aid in the removal of weeds and the smoothing of soil.
  4. Watering Tools: Depending on the size of your tree farm, this could range from simple watering cans to more sophisticated drip irrigation systems. These tools will ensure your trees get the right amount of water they need to thrive.
  5. Wheelbarrows or Garden Carts: For a tree farm, you will need a way to move soil, compost, mulch, and even small trees around your property. A sturdy wheelbarrow or garden cart is indispensable.
  6. Power Equipment: For larger operations, power equipment such as chainsaws, tree spades, and even tractors may be necessary. These will help in tasks like felling mature trees, transplanting large trees, and moving vast amounts of soil or mulch.
  7. Protective Gear: Don’t forget about personal safety equipment. This includes gloves, sturdy footwear, safety glasses, and possibly even hard hats, particularly when dealing with mature trees or power equipment.
  8. Seedling Trays and Containers: If you are starting trees from seeds or cuttings, you’ll need trays and containers. These help to nurture the young trees until they are ready for transplantation.
  9. Soil Testing Kit: This tool is essential for determining the nutrient and pH levels of your soil, allowing you to make necessary adjustments for optimal tree health.
  10. Fertilizer Spreaders: These can be handheld or push-style, but they make distributing fertilizers or other soil amendments much easier and more uniform.

Having the right equipment at your disposal will simplify your tree farming tasks and make your efforts more productive. Remember, this list can vary based on the specific needs of your farm, your budget, and the scale of your operation. In essence, efficient tools are the bedrock of a successful tree farm.

Look for a Good Tractor

A good tractor will help you to till and plow the soil. Remember you need to leave 6 feet on all sides between trees so they grow properly. If you’re just starting out and you want to rent, make sure to get a few quotes. These can go by the number of hours you’ll need the machine.

Here’s a good blog that tells you what to look for if you’re planning on buying a used tractor.

Invest in a Tree Auger

You will need one of these to make the holes to plant the trees. Make sure that you find an auger designed for this purpose. It should be marked as a tree auger. It needs to do specific things like leaving enough room for backfilling after you planted the tree.

There are other items you’ll need too like a chainsaw and a trailer. The chainsaw is for pruning and cutting the trees down. The trailer is for hauling your trees and other tools around.

Research Certifications

There are several certifications to go for and groups you can join.

The American Tree Farm System has a five step process for certification. The Government offers some incentives for tree farmers that want to grow things like fruit here.

Checklist for Starting a Tree FarmDescription
Buy or Set Aside LandYou'll need some land to start a tree farm. If you already own some acreage, designate a part for trees. If starting from scratch, consider buying a wooded property. Ensure the land has only a slight slope so water will pool slightly and not just run downhill.
PatienceRemember that most types of trees that are worth money take approximately eight years before they are big enough to harvest.
Start a NurseryThis is a great option, particularly for urban settings. Cultivate young trees until they are suitable for selling or transplantation. Essential steps include space assessment, market research, acquisition of tree seeds or seedlings, nursery setup, tree care, and marketing/selling.
Decide on the Tree TypesDepending on the area you live in, you can choose from Christmas trees, fruit trees, lumber trees, and others. Pick the right market to decide what to grow.
Tree CareLearning how to look after your trees is essential, including applying mulch, watering, fertilizing, staking them for the first year, and pruning to improve the space between branches.
Choose the MarketThis could be a local farmer's market, local builders, or greenhouses and nurseries, depending on the types of trees you're growing.
Acquire the Right EquipmentEssential tools include shovels, spades, pruning tools, garden rakes, hoes, watering tools, wheelbarrows or garden carts, power equipment, protective gear, seedling trays, containers, soil testing kits, and fertilizer spreaders.
Find a Good TractorA good tractor will help you till and plow the soil. If you're starting out, you may want to consider renting one.
Invest in a Tree AugerThis is necessary for making the holes to plant the trees. Make sure to find one marked as a tree auger. Other items you'll need include a chainsaw for pruning and cutting trees down, and a trailer for hauling your trees and other tools.
Research CertificationsLook into joining organizations like the American Tree Farm System, which has a five-step process for certification. The government also offers incentives for tree farmers that want to grow things like fruit.

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Rob Starr Rob Starr is a staff writer for Small Business Trends. Rob is a freelance journalist and content strategist/manager with three decades of experience in both print and online writing. He currently works in New York City as a copywriter and all across North America for a variety of editing and writing enterprises.

2 Reactions
  1. Owning big land areas in different parts of the country, is the most proper way how to start Tree farms.

  2. I believe this is the most eco friendly business available, To provide a stable yearly income, most growers plant or re-plant one-eighth of their acreage every year, which is about 200 trees per acre. According to the American Christmas Tree Association, the average price of a tree at a u-cut lot was $74 in 2017. With 200 ready-to-harvest trees per acre, that’s $14,800

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