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Christmas tree farm income

Brad Davies
volunteer

Joined: Sep 22, 2011
Posts: 212
Location: Clarkston, MI
    
    8
Hi all!

So I got some great news last weekend that I want to share, and bounce some ideas around. I decided that this summer I am going to put some of this permaculture knowledge I have been cramming into my brain to good use. I put the word out to some friends that I was looking for some property ~3 acres to lease to do chicken/quail tractors at. A friend of mine has been running a landscaping crew for a local Christmas tree farm for a few years now, he said he would ask them.

2 weeks later I met with the owners son, my friends boss, he is probably late 20's early 30's. He had googled Joel Salatin and chicken tractors and was very interested. We BSed for a bit and he showed me around, they have chickens, pigs, cows, and horses. The property is 110acres with 14 acres fenced pasture, some hills, natural ponds, Christmas trees, and hardwoods.

So after the tour I asked, "Ok so what are you thinking about for a lease?"

He said, "Well, we tried raising broilers before and it ended up not being that profitable for us, so just go ahead and do it."

I said, "Wow, well what about some profit sharing or something?"

He said, "Yeah we could do that, but honestly I would want you to make sure you get your money and income out of it first. In all honesty my dad would be ecstatic to get maybe $100-$200 out of the deal."

I said, "OK, well I don't really feel comfortable using your land and not helping you out in some way, what about labor?"

He said, " Really? that would be awesome, actually that would be the best thing. I am busy all summer running the landscaping crews and my dad is getting up there in age and just doesn't have the motivation that he used to."

So I ended up getting access to the whole 14 acres of pasture and I get to help with some farm choirs.

My friend having known this guy for a few years has told me that he really wants to convert the farm to an organic farm. However he is busy running the landscaping / snow removal business and his dad is content with doing Christmas trees. I am hoping that I can show them a profitable way to raise poultry and perhaps start letting permaculture loose on the land. With the structures they already have( parking lot, sale building) a u-pick Holzer style maze would be a perfect fit into the landscape and not interfere with their current enterprises. I am going to start slow and hopefully they will continue to be receptive. The son is very receptive, he was very interested in permaculture asking questions and writing stuff down to google later.

Any way I found this whole encounter rather encouraging and thought I would share it with the group. I'll make sure I take lots of pics and maybe start a thread of the progression.

*Oh and raccoons seem to be a major problem on the farm. They are fine with hunting trapping them, though they don't want to do it themselves. Any suggestions to keep the raccoons out of things?

Questions, comments, concerns, suggestions all welcome.


SE, MI, Zone 5b "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
~Thomas Edison
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6574
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
135
Sounds like a great opportunity for you (and them).
S Haze


Joined: Feb 14, 2012
Posts: 164
Location: Southern Minnesota, USA, zone 4/5
    
    6
*Oh and raccoons seem to be a major problem on the farm. They are fine with hunting trapping them, though they don't want to do it themselves. Any suggestions to keep the raccoons out of things?


they're a big problem (or solution?) here too with the poultry. They seem to love to eat ducks even more so than chickens. So far all I can do here is make sure the chickens are secure after dark, meaning enclosed on all sides with more than just chicken wire and a sturdy door with a critter proof latch (don't skimp here they can surprise you). Also beware of chicken tractor-type arrangements because racoons can dig holes and reach under them. We lost two ducks one night from a chicken tractor and they were basically eaten from under/through the side of the cage. Our chickens range around all day without any problems except one spring when we let out not yet fully grown up birds. It turns out that a momma coon must have been extra hungry and out hunting during the day, probably lost 15-20. I suspect that fully grown birds would have been better at running away.

Last winter we had a trapper take several raccoons and skunks for their furs from the barn and I think that's slowed it down some but they're still around. We live next to a river so they just keep showing up. Eventually I'd like to put in an electrified perimeter fence around livestock areas but leaving wildlife coridors.

You probably know the obvious one: Don't feed them. You arrangement sounds great! good luck!


Scott Haase
Check out my house project!
Dale Hodgins
pollinator

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 4033
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
    
  57
In B.C. we have large tracts of wilderness that are kept clear of large trees for firebreaks and more commonly as corridors for overhead power lines. I saw a large area of hydro cut which was managed as a christmas tree farm. They did some selective grazing with a mixed herd to keep the grass and unwanted hardwoods under control. This is something to considder as it would allow you to access the entire acerage.

Add a truck and trailer and the animals could be used for clearing purposes on other tracts requiring maintainance. There are several grazing contractors in the west who contract with utilities and tree farms. Effectively you are paid to graze thousands of acres without owning any of it and you have free reign on other resources. I met a guy who did this and it was also his job to make sure that no tree was allowed to exceed a certain height. He also dabbled in christmas trees and sold skinny fence posts and firewood.


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Walter Jeffries


Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 907
    
  18
Plan carefully. Go into it with your eyes open. I see a lot of abandoned Christmas tree farms. The trees were too hard to trim, take care of, didn't get harvested and got too big. Now they are a mess and won't make good lumber either.

Cheers

-Walter
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
Read about our on-farm butcher shop project:
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/butchershop

Check out our Kickstarting the Butcher Shop project at:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sugarmtnfarm/building-a-butcher-shop-on-sugarmountainfarm
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
Old thread, I know. I'd love to see an update, though. I would buy up abandoned christmas tree farms and turn them into blueberry and potato hugelkultur. Mulch with pine straw and rebuild beds from the north side as needed. Add all berry species that like a pH range of 4-6.5. Arrange in the shape of nested sun traps (where I am) and do hugelbeet annual/perennial vegetable gardens for those that require higher pH, and a guided tour U-pick that changes with the seasons, or direct sale to consumer/niche restaurants.

-CK
 
 
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