Americans plant a lot of trees.
The US Forest Service reports we plant enough trees every year to cover the entire state of Connecticut.
And about half of those trees come from nurseries that grow seedlings every year.
The North Dakota State Nursery is near Towner and it's coming off a very difficult spring for tree sales.
Jim Olson reports.
It was a strange year at the Towner State Nursery.
(Jeff Smette, Towner State Nursery Manager) "We started on May 8th grading trees which is the latest ever in the history of the nursery dating back to 1952."
And that late start came one year after another strange year.
(Jeff Smette, Towner State Nursery Manager) "It was the earliest ever in late March so we went from one extreme to another."
Suffice it to say the tree nursery business is as unpredictable as the weather. And yet, the nursery sold a lot of trees in 2013.
(Jeff Smette, Towner State Nursery Manager) "We sold about 800,000 this year."
That's a little below the 900,000 to one million trees that often depart from these fields in a year. But Manager Jeff Smette says it was a good accomplishment in such a wet year. Standing in the nursery's shade house - he says trees have been shipped all over North Dakota and to places like New York and California.
(Jeff Smette, Towner State Nursery Manager) "Our trees are all started from seed and 95% of our sales are from our bare root plant material that's out in the field."
The seeds are mainly for conifers - evergreen trees. But he says across the nation, the sales of trees from nurseries such as this one are dropping off a bit, partly because of the demand on the fertile farm land in many parts of the US.
(Jeff Smette, Towner State Nursery Manager) "Farming has changed with the big equipment, no till farming is popular so there's a lot of trees going out."
Nevertheless, these rows of tiny trees stand ready to mature for a few years before they're ready to be sold to farmers and property owners and soil conservation districts across the continent.
(Jeff Smette, Towner State Nursery Manager) "Our minimum order is 50 trees of one variety. So if you have a need - say we grow juneberry and somebody wanted a juneberry patch they could get 50 juneberries. This is quaking aspen and it's the most widely distributed deciduous tree in North America - it'll grow from Maine to Alaska and we happen to grow that here. We also grow Ponderosa Pine which is the most distributed conifer species in North America."
The nursery is supported by state funds - but provides a majority of its operating money through tree sales - even though the trees are pretty low priced.
(Jeff Smette, Towner State Nursery Manager) "A four-year-old tree will sell for 55 cents so you've gotta sell a lot of trees to make your budget."
But they're doing it - and keeping the countryside green for decades to come. In Towner, Jim Olson, KX News.
Tomorrow, Jim will show us another side to the Towner State Nursery - the inside - where trees make a faster trip to the field.
Every year, close to one million trees are shipped around the state and the continent from the Towner State Nursery.
The nursery focuses on conifers - evergreen trees - but also grows deciduous trees.
Most of the leafy trees are grown in a new structure at the nursery.
Jim Olson takes us to Towner for a look.
Yesterday we showed you the rows of tiny new seedlings growing at the Towner State Nursery. Today, we take you to another environment that grows hundreds of thousands of trees each year. This is the new greenhouse at the nursery - a five thousand square foot building that helps the staff turn out larger trees more quickly.
(Jeff Smette, Towner State Nursery Manager) "We can grow the same size tree in the greenhouse in seven months that takes three to four years in a field."
That's why this building plays such a key role at the nursery. You're looking at about 120,000 trees, planted this winter, that are being tended to with some specific goals in mind.
(Jeff Smette, Towner State Nursery Manager) "Just trimming back juneberry, down to eight inches, so anything that's overgrown or tall is cut trying to even everything out."
After the greenhouse trees get their fast start, they're moved outside as quickly as possible. Why?
(Jeff Smette, Towner State Nursery Manager) "The reason we get them outside as soon as we can is so they get some wind on them to sturdy up the trunks and it naturally hardens them up once they go through frost."
Manager Jeff Smette says the process produces a sales-ready tree in one year, compared with the two to five years it takes for a seed that matures outside. The greenhouse also allows for some special research - such as on these Lodge pole Pine.
(Jeff Smette, Towner State Nursery Manager) "We're growing that for the Bismarck Plant Materials Center and they will send this out to different districts to try so they can evaluate plants."
In all, close to one million trees will be sent out of the Towner State Nursery again next spring - as the facility works inside and out to satisfy the demand across the state and beyond. In Towner, Jim Olson, KX News.
You can purchase trees from the Towner State Nursery as long as you buy at least 50 trees at a time.