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Dave Olson, Published September 05 2011

It's My Job: Tree business remains evergreen for Moorhead man

MOORHEAD - Tim Fischer runs Big Tree Nursery in Moorhead, which includes a retail lot in south Moorhead and a tree farm along Wall Street in Oakport Township.

Fischer began in the tree business more than 30 years ago.

Q: How did you get your start?

A: With a little farmstead north of Moorhead on 3 acres. Had a small tree mover, and that’s how we got started.

That went on for a good 10 years. Pretty soon, I bought a bigger machine. Because of the bigger machine, you advertise more, and pretty soon more people are calling. So you need more land and plant more trees.

One thing led to another, and pretty soon I’m moving in trees for developers and newly constructed homes. Every year, the operation gets a little bigger.

How many years do you let your trees grow before you sell them?

Once you put in a row of trees, it takes five years or more before you can harvest those trees.

You have to plan ahead, take a guess, and hopefully the economy is good five years later.

What kind of trees do you mostly deal in?

It would either be a shade tree or evergreen. There’s about a half dozen common shade trees that people generally buy.

With evergreens, the Colorado spruce or the Black Hills spruce seem to be the best-selling trees.

With all of the threats trees face from disease and pests – things like Dutch elm disease, etc. – are there some varieties that are hardier than others?

Every tree has one problem or another. There are no guarantees.

I haven’t planted a row of ash trees in five years because of the emerald ash borer that’s looming.

The tree that’s selling the best now is the autumn blaze maple tree.

Do they grow well around here?

They can, if you have the right conditions. Here in the valley, many housing lots have poor conditions. They (maple trees) don’t like the clay. They need black dirt.

Do tree prices stay pretty stable?

The places we buy potted trees from – there’s a half dozen really big wholesale nurseries – they’ve actually dropped their prices slightly because of the sluggish economy and the lower number of houses being built. We pass on the cost savings.

What is the busiest time for you?

Spring and fall. Actually, from the middle of September to the middle of October is probably the best time of the whole year to plant trees.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555