To raise high quality trees for wholesale and retail.
Wholesale tree growers constantly check themselves by asking: Who are we growing the trees for? What kind of trees will sell best in this area? How many species should we have?
Tree planting sales are robust in winter months, when roots are dormant, and to smooth out the seasonality, most tree growers have different crops for all four seasons. Pleasant Valley Tree Farms & Garden Center in West Central Wisconsin harvests bulbs and herbs for the spring, Christmas trees and trees for the winter, gourds, pumpkins and squash for the fall, and perennials and shrubs for summer.
As the needs of the consumer change, so does the tree grower's product line. Thirty years ago, 90% of the population bought a real Christmas tree for the holiday season. Since then, Christmas tree sales have decreased by half, from 70 million trees annually to less than 35 million. That is a substantial loss for growers. It used to be that a tree farmer could make a living purely selling Christmas trees, but not anymore.
The market for trees is highly competitive. Selling trees is an investment, because to sell a quality tree it takes years - sometimes seven or eight - before you have a mature, saleable tree. Lots of pruning, shaping and nurturing is needed, and one missed pruning or improper watering could result in an unmarketable tree and a big financial loss. "The market today demands a very high-quality tree", states Mel Koelling, a Michigan State University forestry expert, " and failure to trim in any one of those six, seven or eight years that a tree is being produced, will render the tree unsaleable."
Tree growers usually sell in volume and by contractual agreement. For example, you can order trees a season in advanced. That way, your order is grown especially for you. Usually trees are bought in bundles of 100 or 500. Purchasing trees with contracts insures the grower that he or she will not be stuck with tons of extra trees that won't sell.
There are no degrees required to become a wholesale tree grower, but it is necessary to be knowledgeable in the crops you are producing as well as having excellent people and business skills. Acquiring the land is also expensive, and it can take five to ten years to yield a profit.
Tree growers are typically owners/operators and profits vary from very little to six figures.