A Family Tradition
Homegrown with care in the
Trees in the Valley
There could be no more appropriate story to share on Earth Day than that of Jean Anderson and the tree farm partnership she operates with her 88-year-old dad, Lynn, a retired farmer and seedsman.
With just five-and-a-half acres, a desire to work the land, and a father with a knack for growing things, Jean started Trees in the Valley ten years ago, 15 miles south of Moorhead on land homesteaded by her great grandparents more than 100 years ago.
"I have the best of both worlds," Jean said. "I live right by Island Park in downtown Fargo and then I get to be out in the country many hours during the year. I love the wide open sky and working on the land. Dad and Mom moved in from the farm about 8 years ago and now live in an apartment at Riverview Place in Fargo."
"I've often wondered how I ended up with a tree farm," Jean continued, "and then I realized that some of this is clearly in my genes -- my mom's father was a wheat breeder at NDSU and my great uncle was a horticulturist and a Dean of the College of Agriculture at NDSU. He was on the Fargo Park Board and worked on planning many of the parks in Fargo. And on my dad's side, the family homesteaded here in 1870 and has worked on the land since then. Coincidentally, their log cabin is on the historic register and still sits on its site on the banks of the Red River, seven miles south of Moorhead.
Hoping that some of this ancestral knowledge of the land was passed onto her, Jean began Trees in the Valley by planting 50 tiny Colorado blue spruce, working alongside her dad who takes care of the pruning, watering, fertilizing and mulching the tender crop. Together, they fought drought, grasshoppers and dust storms, until finally -- Jean sold her first trees in the fall of 2003.
Every year since that first season, Jean and Lynn have continued to plant new seedlings, including Black Hills spruce and several deciduous varieties. Today they tend a living inventory of 600, ranging from five to nine feet tall for residential and commercial planting. "I love the wide open spaces of the land and sky and it's so easy to see the trees adding a lot of pizzazz and beauty to your yard. It's fun to try something new on land that's been in our family for more than a century and working with my dad is an incredible extra bonus."
In addition, she is employed full time as Director of Development for Hospice of the Red River Valley in Fargo. "I've been lucky because, for the most part, the busy work periods at the tree farm are the opposite of my work at Hospice of the Red River Valley. Most of the tree farm work falls in the spring, summer, and fall when there's light far into the evenings, so that makes it easy to be at the tree farm if there's work I need to do. Of course, it can be challenging to handle both," Jean said, "so I've also hired people to help at the tree farm when lots of activity is happening at both places."
In addition, her dad serving as manager and major worker at the farm, has provided a huge cushion of ease for Jean. "Thanks to him, I've learned so much about how to think about things - not only trees and land, but life. When you work side by side with someone over many seasons, there are lots of stories and perspectives and knowledge that get shared. Many times we're each working quietly on weeding or fertilizing or something, but then one of us will see something that sparks some conversation about how things grow or how to handle a certain situation. He's always so witty and wise and usually seven steps ahead of me in thinking and planning what to do next. I used to wonder why he was so far ahead of me, and then it dawned on me that he's got about 60 years more experience under his belt."
Over the years, a lot of friends and neighbors have also been game to pitch in and help plant, water, weed, prune the trees or help out with some dilemma when needed, Jean added. "Consequently, the tree farm has been the site of a lot of learning and a lot of fun."
Part of the learning and fun was the addition of the irrigation system which Jean said was a real godsend. "Before we got the irrigation lines in, it was a real trick to be sure that the trees would get the moisture they needed. That's something you just can't schedule - it depends on Mother Nature and a lot of things like how hot and windy it gets, and whether the rain clouds head your way or pass you by. After years of using a water tank and hose system to water the trees, the irrigation system is like manna from heaven."
As for the transplanting portion of the business, Jean partners with Jim Hanson of Hanson Tree Moving of Barnesville. "We work well together and people who've bought the trees have loved the ease of having the trees moved into their yard."
One of the great parts of having the tree farm is how happy the customers have been with the beauty of the trees and the ease of the service, Jean said. "I had a booth at the Home and Garden Show in the FargoDome this February and Jeff, one of my customers, manned the booth for me for a few hours so I could take a break. He said that people really did a double-take when he told them his only connection to the tree farm was as a satisfied customer. Just as my trees keep growing, so does the interest in the tree farm. It's great to be able to have a lot of people who are happy to spread the word about Trees in the Valley."
As for what the future holds, Jean said she intends to keep on planting trees. "I say that trees bring beauty and blessings and I want to keep both of these things coming. During the past year, I've been paying a lot of attention to different kinds of trees I might plant in the future, so I'm eager to expand and add more diversity to the tree farm. And I love hearing people talk about their favorite trees."
"I've also discovered that if you have a dream to do something, do everything you can to make it happen. The blessings in following through come in abundance and many are not expected. I keep learning new things, have met some very interesting people through work on the tree farm, and have had an incredibly rich time with my dad. The joys I've encountered through the trees have been worth a million."
Anyone interested in learning more about Trees in the Valley can do so by visiting their web site at treesinthevalley.net or by contacting Jean at (701) 371-8787.
Reprinted from the Midweek - 4/22/2005
Trees bring beauty, blessings to farmer
By Joy Anderson
Comstock, Minn. - When Jean Anderson lived in the Twin Cities, she began to get lonely for the land.
Nearly 250 miles away from the farm she grew up on, Jean wondered how she could be involved. So far away, she couldn't grow soybeans or sugar beets or wheat.
But one day, as her father, Lynn Anderson, rode in his tractor, he had a revelation -- Jean should grow trees.
So Jean bought 50 small Colorado Blue Spruce trees, took over a 5 1/2 acre area tucked between two ditches on her dad's farm and started an oddity for the Red River Valley -- a tree farm.
This spring, after eight years of planting, Trees in the Valley sold its first six spruce trees for landscaping.
Jean, 54, who moved back to Fargo a year after the first planting, now has 540 spruce trees, plus about 40 other varieties of deciduous trees on her little farm.
Tree farms are rare in the Fargo-Moorhead region, said Brenda Bettels, office manager for Clay County extension service. In lakes country to the east, the farms are more common, because the abundance of hills and lakes makes row farming more difficult.
Without local references, Jean has learned about tree farming simply by doing it.
"People think, 'Oh well, trees won't be much work.' I might have thought that, too, but I learned differently," said Jean, director of development for Hospice of the Red River Valley.
She shares that work with Lynn, now 87, who retired in January but can't keep away from his land.
After all, Lynn started helping on his family's farm at age 6. He didn't work too hard -- he'd alternate milking cows with sitting on their backs.
Now he spends about 40 hours a month tending his daughter's trees, mowing, pruning, weeding, watering, and guiding the trees through various catastrophes.
The first year, a thaw-and freeze cycle in the spring turned the crop of trees completely brown.
"Dad said, 'Oh yah, those trees look a little rough.' I said, 'Rough! They're dead!'" Jean said.
They weren't dead; losing a seedling is actually quite rare, despite all the tribulations they've been through.
Another year it was grasshoppers, which feasted on the tender seedlings. Then there was the hailstorm. But perhaps the worst was a summer dust storm, when Lynn and Jean had to dig each tree out of its own pile of dirt.
Each year, Jean buys about 50 trees, at a cost of $8 to $10 each. Last spring, the 8-year-old trees fetched $250 for tree and transplanting.
"On paper it looks good," said Lynn with a chuckle, perhaps because he's the one who has to do most of the off-paper work.
The final product is about 7-or 8-feet tall.
"The landscapers say people like trees they can look up to," Jean said.
She's proud of what she grows and she loves her trees, in spite of the hard work.
"Trees, they bring beauty, and they bring birds, and I think they bring blessings," Jean said.
Reprinted from the Forum - 08/15/2003
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Phone: (701) 371-8787
Trees in the Valley
It was through his inspiration, passion and teaching that I am able to continue loving and working on the land.
Thank you for your interest in trees - they bring beauty and blessings to the earth.