Source: Sleepy Eye News
The agriculture industry is perceived as dirty and utilitarian. But some farmers, like Chad Kingstrom, are bringing a bit of pizzazz to the party. Kingstrom, of Sacred Heart in west-central Minnesota, brightens homes and landscapes alike with decorative woody florals he perpetuates on his property.
This colorful venture began with Kingstrom taking part in a local decorative woody florals-growing group which promotes sustainable agriculture and developing sustainable communities. At the time, he was involved in agroforestry as a production manager of a “medium-sized” tree farm for a landscaping company. As his involvement increased, Kingstrom decided to make a go of growing his own woody florals such as red and yellow dogwoods and Japanese willows. Being associated with the project led him to eventually procure a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grant and he was on his way.
His first planting was about a year later in 2005 while still working for the landscaping company. It was a direction he was heading in for a long time. Kingstrom became interested in gardening and growing while a teen working for a tree farm. “I wanted my own nursery so I went with a plan,” he explained. “I wanted added income and habitat for birds and wildlife and I wanted to add value to the landscape.” Getting started in growing decorative woody florals is inexpensive, Kingstrom pointed out. “It doesn‘t require a huge capital outlay to put in 100 plants even,” he said. “And if you can find someone who will give you cuttings, it can be even less. You can get started with little money, so that’s a benefit.”
There are a variety of markets available for selling his decorative branches, buds and blooms. Individual customers buy them, as do a number of garden centers and florists. Over a few years Kingstrom has developed a consistent clientele. The markets appear to be stable, especially for Red Dogwood. The need of color, especially during Minnesota winters keeps people buying.
While these trees provide a beautiful aesthetic, are they a viable, sustainable product?
“I would say they are very sustainable,” Kingstrom stated. “They are very easy to grow. They take care of themselves.” He uses no chemicals in his nursery and once planted and established, the trees require minimum upkeep outside of some weed control. Cuttings from existing plants are used to perpetuate the crop allowing expansion from what already exists. “You can keep going from what you have, you don’t need to grow more,” he added.
Currently Kingstrom has a three-acre tree nursery and grows his 120 decorative florals spread out over about half an acre. His mix includes the two varieties of dogwood and curly willow along with his best-selling Japanese willow. The red dogwood remains the most successful in fall while the Japanese willows pick up in the spring. Growing these trees is something that can be done along with other farming pursuits without becoming overwhelming. “Anybody can do it with a little space in their yard,” Kingstrom said. “You can do it just about anywhere with anything else.”
He advises establishing where the trees will be grown, then controlling the weeds in that area. Focusing on just a few types of trees to start is better until determining market demand. Proper pruning in the spring is a key to getting the desired product: diligent maintenance is crucial for a marketable product, said Kingstrom. “Use your imagination,” Kingstrom says. “Find a niche, find what no one else is doing then show your results to garden centers and florists. There’s a lot to presentation.”
To learn more about this project, visit the online SARE project report website at http://www.sare.org/MySare/ProjectReport.aspx?do=viewProj&pn=FNC04-498