This tour takes us to Isanti, Minnesota on the Pinestead Tree Farm. Meet Phil Hartley, his wife Helen and his son Greg.


The Pinestead Tree Farm was started in 1986. Six years later, the first trees were sold. Today, most commonly the trees that are sold are between 8-12 years old. However, there are also ones as young as 4 sold for table toppers and as old as 15 sold. With trees needing many years to grow before selling to families, a large crop of trees are planted each year in preparation.

Planting Trees

The trees grown at the Pinestead Tree Farm are called conifers. Pine, spruce and fir are often remembered as ones that don’t loose their leaves. Instead of normal leaves, they loose their pinecones. You can tell if a pinecone has lost their leaves by its shape. Ones that are closed off are protecting the seed inside. The ones that appear to be open are the pinecones that have lost their seeds.

Pinestead Tree Farm each year buys the next crop of trees from a nursery. In the video, you will see the difference between a seedling and a transplant tree. Because of the thicker, hardier root system, Phil and his family choose transplants to grow on their farm. About 3,000-4,000 trees a year are planted during the spring. The trees are planted six feet by six feet apart allowing room for them to grow properly. Some of the trees are planted by hand with a planting bar that makes a wide hole to put a tree in the ground. Most of the trees are planted with a tractor drawn tree planter. The trees are manually dropped by two people into the trench.

Types of Trees

The Pinestead Tree Farm plants and sells six different types of trees:

  • Norway pine is the Minnesota state tree.
  • White pine has softer needles. These tree can grow very tall and can commonly become 300+ years old natively.
  • Blue spruce is a prickly tree.
  • Balsam fir are common and a native tree to Minnesota
  • Fraser fir is not a native tree that comes from North Carolina but has a silver undertone to them. It holds its needles well and is one of the most popular.

Taking Care of the Trees

After the trees are planted, Greg mulches the trees to help protect the new trees and keep them cool. The mulch also helps keep the moisture in the ground for the trees during the summer. The new trees are irrigated to keep them alive and healthy as they create establish their root system. The roots are very shallow in the beginning stage so these steps are very important to keep the trees develop and grow.

Think of growing trees like growing a crop like corn but instead of harvesting every fall, the Pinestead Tree Farms crop gets harvested after 8 to 10 years. Watch the video of our virtual field trip with Phil and his family farm at the Pinestead Tree Farm. You will learn more about what it takes to grow trees and the special tools they use to make the trees look and grow like the Christmas tree many of us are used to seeing.

A special thank you to Pinestead Tree Farms for taking time to show us around your farm and teach us about the history of Christmas trees! Eagar to learn more about trees after visiting this tree farm? Discover more about the Minnesota trees and lumber industry from this blog article.

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