The Leading Provider of Minnesota Grown Specialty Forest Products
Spruce Top Procurement
Our Spruce Are Tops
From the Minnesota forest to your business, partner with Black Spruce Holdings, LLC to harvest your holiday greenery and fall/winter landscaping products including spruce tops, dogwood, red pine, white pine, and jack pine boughs, and birch and black spruce poles.
Click here to watch Bobby Jensen on KARE 11 highlight our contribution to holiday decorating
Harvesting quality Minnesota grown specialty forest products is a family affair. Brothers Sean Timonen, owner of Black Spruce Holdings, LLC, and David, owner of Timonen Forest Products, LLC, along with their father Wayne have been in business since 2001. Their respective operations have grown significantly over the years and they now service an expanded account base of Midwest businesses in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois. Account retention has been an overriding focus. In the beginning, buyers were landscapers and local garden centers. Today, buyers include regional commercial flower growers for national retail chains that incorporate the family's harvested products into decorative potted arrangements. The Timonen family prides itself in delivering high customer satisfaction whether it's neighbors decorating the front porch to large commercial businesses receiving their products by the semi-trailer load.
Black Spruce Holdings, LLC purchases spruce top stumpage from public agencies and private landowners. The company has earned a solid reputation for operating in a professional manner. Trusted relationships with contracted counterparties are critical to long-term operational viability. Black spruce tops are a renewable resource; the trees will regenerate harvestable tops typically in a span of five to seven growing seasons. When the trees regenerate, the hope is that the landowner's positive experience results in a willingness to ink subsequent contracts.
Black Spruce Holdings, LLC completed the necessary requirements to achieve membership status within the Minnesota Logger Education Program (www.MLEP.org). This membership demonstrates commitment to best harvesting practices and sustainable forest management.
The harvesting process is basic. The top 18 inches to four feet of the tree are cut. Several whirls of branches are left on the tree promoting the growth of a leader which in time establishes a future top (see an example in the Videos tab). Spruce tops are then bundled and transported out of the bog with a Bombardier skidder. The Bombardier skidder is a tracked machine with a flatbed that weighs approximately four thousand pounds. The ground pressure is minimal at slightly above one psi. The machine is optimal in bogs as ground disturbance is negligible. The remaining footprints after a site is harvested are a few main trails used to extract the tops.
Black Spruce Holdings, LLC offers the following services to landowners looking to realize income from their spruce top stumpage:
Estimates on spruce top value
Establishing and administering the spruce top sale contract
Designating spruce top sale boundaries
Providing timely payment for contracted value
Responses from previous contracted landowners have been overwhelmingly positive. They appreciate the company unlocking economic value from what tends to be nonproductive lands. In addition, landowners recognize the annuity-like characteristics of the relationship given the relatively short duration required to re-harvest the bog.
Spruce tops (or “spruce tips”) are the dominant specialty forest product harvested and distributed by the Timonens. Spruce tops trace their roots back to Duluth, Minnesota, in the 1950s when they were harvested in the black spruce bogs of northern Minnesota and sold as individual table top Christmas trees. By 1960, over a million and a half tops were distributed across the United States and parts of Europe. Today, spruce tops remain a holiday decorating staple and have also become a fall/winter landscaping item. Beginning in early November, buyers of the bundled spruce tops replace flowers in beds and pots with this unique Minnesota greenery and pair them with various boughs, dogwood stems, birch poles and dried flowers. The arrangements remain “planted” until spring arrives and flower season begins once again.
Beyond recreating more vibrant landscapes, the financial benefits of this specialty forest product are noteworthy. For the landscaper, decorating with spruce tops provides a late season option to bolster service revenues and enhance client relationships. For garden center buyers, spruce tops sales serve as a bridge between Halloween and Christmas. Commercial flower growers potting the tops for national retail chains not only benefit financially from the high margin product, but operations promote employment of valued workforces closer to year-end. Finally, spruce tops are a popular addition to fundraising efforts, which historically focused on decorative wreaths.
The Timonens harvest four spruce top sizes ranging from the increasingly popular window box/hanging basket bundle, to two and four foot bundles, and six foot-plus bundles for highly prominent displays. The family works with multiple public agencies and private landowners procuring access to the naturally occurring black spruce bogs. Because each site possesses unique conditions, significant investment in equipment has been made to ensure a highly reproducible process. To harvest spruce tops, the Timonens use their fleet of tracked machines, which include seven Bombardier J-5s, three Bombardier Muskeg Carriers, and two fabricated specialty hydrostatic machines. Distribution is supported by a growing base of 53 foot refrigerated semi-trailers and two semi-tractors. In addition to having the right tools for the job, the family recognized early on it was critical to have redundancies embedded in the operation to ensure high volume needs were met during a compressed selling season.
TIMBER STAND IMPROVEMENT
Spruce tops are a renewable resource. The Timonens take great pride in their harvesting process, which helps ensure access to sites for multiple future cuts. The harvesting process has evolved over the years, allowing the family to play a significant role in the long-term management of Minnesota’s black spruce bogs. For public agencies such as the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and timber companies needing to support pulp markets decades into the future timber stand improvement or TSI work is highly beneficial. The harvest process releases the immature black spruce trees through removal of competing species, which may include tamarack, birch, jack pine and red pine. Regarding the black spruce, approximately 800 trees per acre are left untopped, which equates to pulp crop tree spacing of six to eight feet. Pre-commercial crop tree release increases tree diameter and helps ensure survival. In terms of dollars and cents, released trees become mature sooner and likely attain a larger size at maturity.
Landowners who are less concerned about future pulp wood production can maximize the present value of their asset by leaving fewer designated pulp crop trees. This approach often times applies to individual landowners. Removal of competing species is still encouraged to promote a harvest targeted every five to seven growing seasons.
Sean produced a video using an aerial drone to better describe the harvest process and more importantly provide an example of quality TSI work. Check it out in the Videos tab. Enjoy!