Lofty Ambitions at a Rocky Mountain Tree Farm
As a child, Gary Moyer grew up working in his father’s logging and milling business. Following in his dad’s footsteps, Gary made his way to the University of Minnesota where he majored in forestry and wood products. As his passion for tree planting grew, Gary planted a hobby farm in the late 1980’s. In 1991, he purchased 25 acres and dove into the tree farm business full time. Currently spanning 165 total acres, White River Trees specializes in high-altitude aspen cultivation. At 6,200 feet above sea level, Gary’s tree farm presents its own unique challenges.
High-Elevation Growing — With Help from Higher Education
Growing at high elevations imposes harsh limitations on Gary’s tree nursery. The topsoil is extremely shallow, and it’s impossible to grow above ground. Gary’s staple aspen crops need to mature in-ground, and preserving shallow topsoil is a major priority. In the early stages of his venture, Gary contacted researchers at Ohio State University who were conducting research with High Caliper Growing’s Root Control Bags.
A Landmark Discovery for Landscaping Trees
Building on the advice of OSU researchers, Gary developed a system for placing High Caliper’s fabric bags in the ground. Gary’s crew attaches an augur to a skid steer loader, and inserts it down a pipe placed vertically above the hole. The augur penetrates the soil and pulls the dirt up into the pipe. Gary’s crew inserts the Root Control Bag into the hole, and releases the dirt out of the pipe into the bag. Gary’s assistants run drip line along the row of newly inserted fabric bags and place woven weed barriers over the tops of them. In the spring, they place new seedlings into the fabric bags and nourish them with drip irrigation. On a good day, Gary’s crew can get 500 bags into the ground.
A Labor of Love — and Efficiency
In recent years, tighter restrictions in a federal guest worker visa program have placed a strain on agricultural producers. For tree growers like Gary, the impact has been severe. “We used to bring workers in from Peru. We had guys that could do just about everything on the tree farm. But now the audit process is much stricter. One clerical mistake, one tiny infraction in living conditions, and you’re looking at a minimum $10,000 fine. We’ve seen people put out of business. It’s a risk we just can’t afford to take anymore.” With the loss of temporary foreign workers, and located deep in a remote stretch of Colorado, White River Farms faced a labor crisis. That’s where Root Control Bags really made a difference.
Facing a labor shortage, Gary knew he had to make the most of his manpower. Using a skid steer extension known as a “nursery jaw,” Gary and his team can harvest and load up to three trees at a time – which means they can fill a 25-foot gooseneck with up to 100 trees in an hour. On a 48-foot box truck, they can fit up to 250 trees, compared with approximately 90 using the ball-and-burlap method. The savings to Gary’s customers are substantial.
Root Control Bags: The Root of Gary’s Success
Time savings are a huge advantage. Using nursery jaws, Gary’s crew can harvest, wrap and containerize up to 500 trees per day. The result? White River’s yearly rotation comes out of the ground in approximately one month, drastically saving on man hours while solving the long-term shortage of skilled nursery labor. With all of the savings and efficiency he’s achieved, Gary remains focused one thing — delivering high-quality products. “At the end of the day, you have to develop relationships and keep customers coming back for more. That’s why we go out of our way to deliver the best high-altitude tree on the market. And Root Control Bags are a huge part of the equation.”
Business Takes Root.
When Myron Kuenzi opened his nursery and turf farm in 1990, he was determined to start off on the right foot. After interviewing fellow trees farmers, he learned about a revolutionary new method of planting and harvesting. The Root Control Bag from High Caliper Growing was beginning to take hold in the industry. And Myron soon discovered why.
A Whole New Ballgame.
Compared with ball-and-burlap, Root Control Bags provide distinctive advantages. Myron learned that Root Control Bags retain 85-95% of the root ball at harvest. Not only does this improve survivability during transplant, it also allows Myron to harvest and sell trees year round. Because ball-and-burlap preserves only 30% or less of the root ball at harvest, trees must be harvested in a dormant state. By retaining the vast majority of the root ball, Root Control Bags enable year-round sales, helping Myron smooth out his cash flow and spread labor needs more evenly throughout the year.
When the Time is Ripe.
While other growers are waiting for their trees to go dormant, Myron commands premium prices from construction contractors, landscapers and re-sellers. And his trees are vastly superior thanks to their health and nutrient storage at the time of transplant. Because trees store vital nutrients in their root balls, Myron’s trees recover and grow faster than his balland- burlap competitors. This carbohydrate storage is especially vital for the liner produced in the 10” fabric bag. Survival is near 100%, and first year startup is tremendous. Myron’s customers say trees go to market two years faster than bare root!
Faster. Cheaper. Smarter.
But the benefits don’t stop there. Root Control Bags contain the root ball in a smaller area, so no tree spade is required to get the trees out of the ground. Root Control Bags reduce Myron’s harvest times and costs by approximately 50 percent for the 21” fabric bag on larger caliper trees. That’s money he can sow back into his growing business. And growing is exactly what Kuenzi Turf and Nursery has done over two-and-a-half decades.
A Growing Success.
Today, what began as a 35-acre sod farm in 1990 has expanded to more than 500 acres, selling more than 150,000 trees annually throughout the Pacific Northwest, across northern U.S. and into Ontario Canada. Myron couldn’t be happier. “We get excellent service from High Caliper Growing. The staff is knowledgeable. The product is excellent. And our orders are filled quickly and diligently.”