Blissenbachs grow eight types of trees and customers may cut their own
By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
John and Pat Blissenbach of Pierz are in the Christmas tree business. For the past 30 years they harvested what trees were ready on their lot, plus imported others for their customers.
“We sell about 700 trees each year,” said John. He said his busiest time is the two weeks after Thanksgiving.
With prices ranging from $5 and up, John and Pat are crazy busy until Christmas.
The Blissenbachs moved to Morrison County in 1971 from the Echo Lake area. John taught vocational agriculture for 32 years between there and in Pierz.
Pat said they lived in Little Falls for the first six years and purchased the Pierz farm in 1977.
“We began growing trees more for conservation than anything else,” said John. “Each year we cleared a little more land and planted more trees.”
In 1983, they sold their first 30 Christmas trees at $10 each. John said they were thrilled.
“We had friends who had a Christmas tree farm and did well at it. We started pruning the trees, especially the jack pines, which we used for our own Christmas tree,” said Pat. “We then started pruning them all.”
Each year, they plant around 6,000 18-inch seedlings from the DNR and private growers.
Part of their projections include the loss of trees each year from drought and disease.
The Blissenbachs grow a large variety of Christmas trees for their customers. In the pine family, they grow Scotch, Norway and white pines. They grow Colorado and Black Hills spruces along with fraser, Canaan and balsam firs.
JB Tree Farm also purchases fraser, Canaan and balsam firs along with white pines as they cannot grow enough for all their customers.
“Fraser and Canaan’s are the most popular,” said John.
The job of pruning a pine is done between mid-June and mid-July. John said the trees needs about half their new growth cut off by shaping the tree to resemble a cone.
“This helps form more buds, creating a fuller tree,” John said.
Firs and spruces, he said, may be pruned any time of the year. But the best time is before August so the scars will be covered by Christmas.
“There is a lot invested in a tree farm. It’s not just planting in the spring and harvesting in the fall,” said Pat.
The Blissenbachs fertilize the trees each year plus they use insecticides and weed control. The spruce are sprayed with fungicides three times each season. Besides time, there is a lot of money and work tied up in each tree.
A pine tree is grown about eight – 10 years before it’s harvested and firs about 15 years. John said the trees need those years to become full.
During the height of their season, the Blissenbachs’ customers have the choice of cutting their own tree or choosing one already cut. The farm also has a Christmas gift shop in one building and another with crafts made by Pat. They sell decorated wreaths, offer hot cider and candy to everyone and give out coloring books to the children. They will even donate the rope to tie the tree on the car.
“But I won’t trim the end for people,” he said. “No matter how close they are to home, the sap will set within minutes and the tree will not be able to absorb water. People need to cut the trunks just before putting the tree into water.”
John said large trees need about a gallon of water each day and they must not be allowed to become dry.
“A tree that runs out of water for 20 minutes or less will seal up,” he said. “The trunk then has to be recut or the tree will die.”
He said that if it’s taken care of, a Christmas tree should last until mid-January.