Christmas spirit sprouts on campus

The University’s Forestry Club holds the annual Christmas tree sale on the St. Paul campus.

Jason Juno

Only 18 days remain until Christmas, and the holiday spirit can still be found at the corner of Cleveland Avenue North and Larpenteur Avenue West in St. Paul.

Members of the University’s Forestry Club, a student group, are using a plot of land for the annual Christmas tree sale.

There is a rich tradition here in the club’s biggest fund-raiser. On weekends and typically after workdays, a large group of customers come looking for the perfect tree, club Vice President Lars Loberg said.

Volunteer workers can help with the process in the woods, which can include harvesting and cutting the trees. But those who help on the lot are paid, Loberg said.

Students working on the project learn more than just about selling trees; they can see the entire process, work on the business and logistical sides and interact with customers, said Carl Vogt, an instructor in the department of forest resources.

Vogt said the work is a good experience for students.

He said the tree sale started in 1966 or 1967 as students in the Forestry Club were looking for a fund-raiser. This fit their area of study, Loberg said.

The group started by selling 150 trees that year, Vogt said. That number did not begin to increase until the 1990s, he said. But last year, the club sold more than 2,000 trees, Loberg said.

All the trees are grown in Minnesota. Customers, some of whom are alumni, come from all over the metropolitan area, whether it’s families or students, Vogt said.

The money earned goes to events the club has throughout the year. One thing the group uses the money for is a chain saw safety class that costs $2,000 to run. The class wouldn’t be possible without the money, Loberg said.

“Without the lot, we wouldn’t be able to do a darn thing,” he said.

The group helps the student part of the Minnesota Society of American Foresters, an organization with similar goals, with some of its money, Loberg said.

Forestry Club Treasurer Dave Arras said the people make working at the lot a fun place to be.

“Most of the time when people come out for a Christmas tree, they’re in a good mood,” he said.

The children always pick the tree when families come, Arras said. Loberg said it is a big event for the families, and some ask him to take pictures of them with the trees of their choice.

Loberg said it is a fine method for meeting people, even group members he never knew.

University student Sam Wangsgard, who works at the lot, said the weekdays are spent mostly working around the lot and stocking the trees.

Vogt said there are other benefits to growing Christmas trees. Three acres of Christmas trees provide enough oxygen for 25 people for one year. Plus, they plant three trees for every one taken and do not use plastic, like artificial trees that many people use in their homes. Oil is used to make plastic.

The lot has seven types of trees available: balsam fir, Fraser fir, Scotch pine, white pine, white spruce and Colorado spruce. Decorations are available, plus a supply of maple syrup.