Here’s a quiz for you…how many trees are there in North Dakota?
Before I give you the answer, let me send you to the a place that distributes close to one million trees every year.
Jim Olson is our guide on a trip to the Towner State Nursery.
North Dakota is not known for its trees. We’re 49th in the nation for the amount of forest cover. But this work…this slow work…this back breaking work…is helping to increase the number of trees in the state.
(Jeff Smette, Towner State Nursery Manager) “Each year we transplant about one million trees.”
That’s what’s happening here. Very slowly. This contraption pulled behind an idling tractor hauls a crew of five people – each one feeding one-year-old seedlings into a wheel
(Pam Schmitt, Nursery Worker) “We grab them by the stem and plant them so a little bit of green shows.”
The wheel flips the tree over to sink the roots into the rich soil. It takes about 75 minutes to cover the 500-foot space – leaving behind five rows of, in this case, Eastern Red Cedars. 10,000 of them per five-row bed. 200,000 in this area alone.
(Jeff Smette, Towner State Nursery Manager) “They’ll be in there for two years and then we’ll start harvesting them.”
Before the young trees are transplanted, they grow from seeds in another area of the nursery. Here. Where this crew has no special equipment. Just patience and lots of bending over and reaching to pull up these one-year-old Rocky Mountain Junipers.
“How’s your back feel after a day of this?” “A little stiff…”
This crew lifts out around 30,000 trees per day and sends them to be graded and they transplanted. It’s all part of the process of boosting the state’s tree supply.
(Jeff Smette, Towner State Nursery Manager) “This year we sold about 900,000 trees.”
And who buys them?
“We like to get 50 to 100 trees a year and we put them in.”
We’ll meet a couple who’ve planted thousands in their yard in the past 30 years, next week. Jim Olson, KX News.
And the answer to our tree quiz?
The US Forest Service estimates there are 353.4 million trees in North Dakota as of 2015.