Forestry Club sells Christmas trees to students

Ever since the club was founded in 1903, members have operated a Christmas tree lot to help raise funds.

Alex Robinson

Members of the University Forestry Club don’t hug trees, they cut and sell them.

Every year since the club’s formation in 1903, its members have operated a Christmas tree lot; open from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve.

Club members also participate in trimming, harvesting and shipping the trees before they sell them.

Most of the trees come from a 25-acre tree farm near Cambridge, Minn., approximately 45 miles north of the Twin Cities. From there, the trees are cut and shipped to the lot where they are sold, near the University golf course in St. Paul.

Forest resources senior Megan Bowdish said while the club sells a lot of trees to people from the surrounding communities, they also sell trees to students and faculty members.

Club President Tiffany Triggs presented a Christmas tree to University President Bob Bruininks earlier this year.

“It’s something we’ve been doing every year,” Triggs said. “It’s a good way for us to get our name out there, and it’s also a good way to support the ‘U’ by giving the president a tree.”

This year, the club plans to sell about 1,000 trees. Each year it earns about $20,000, which is used to fund club events and scholarships, Bowdish said.

Part of the money will fund the group’s chainsaw safety classes and its annual trip to a lumberjack competition.

Club members compete in the Midwestern Foresters Conclave, which features events like match splitting, chainsaw throwing and tobacco spitting.

Trees that aren’t sold are donated to the University and used for mulch.

Bowdish said some people view tree farming as a waste.

“They don’t like that you cut down a tree to use it for a month and then throw it out,” she said.

Many people don’t understand what forestry is really about, Triggs said.

“A lot of people believe we’re all about harvesting and slashing and cutting, and then some people think we’re all about preserving,” Triggs said. “Really, what we’re trying to do is find out what’s best for that specific forest.”

Although tree farming involves cutting down trees, the practice does have some positive impacts.

Extension specialist Carl Vogt, who helps the club with its Christmas tree sale, said tree farming doesn’t involve a lot of pesticides or fertilizers and the trees provide oxygen before they are cut.

One acre of trees provides enough oxygen for 18 people each year, Vogt said.

“Most tree farmers in general are very conservation-minded, and most replant more than they harvest,” Vogt said.

Buying a natural Christmas tree is actually better for the environment than buying a fake tree, because most fake trees are petroleum-based, Vogt said.

Participating in a Christmas tree sale isn’t only beneficial to the environment, but it gives the students a chance to witness the business end of forestry, Vogt said.

“Most people don’t realize the efforts that go into tree farming,” he said. “You need a crystal ball for planning what is going to happen in the future.”