Nature and nurture: Our 2018 trees

by | Aug 22, 2018

Each year we take in a new round of investment and plant a new vintage of trees with our farmers. This spring and summer we have been working with our farmers to plant the trees on behalf of our 2017 investors.

Nature and nurture are equally important in developing good trees. Just like the first few years of a child’s life are so critical to development – how the trees begin their lives is the key determinant of their future success.

Nature: Good genes equals good trees

To get the best results you need trees with the best genes that are adapted to the conditions where they will be grown. We have 18 different genotypes that we have specially selected for producing high quality timber trees. Our varieties are mostly derivatives of of Paulownia fortunei, a non-invasive variety particularly well suited to warm climates. We also have cold-tolerant hybrids that we plant in areas prone to cooler winters, e.g. Canada.

Many of our trees began their lives in a facility in Kelowna, BC, where they were grown from tissue culture. This allows us to produce tens of thousands of trees in a short time period and ship them to more localized nurseries to be grown to maturity. We also have a nursery in Costa Rica who grow out the trees, allowing us to provide trees to our farmers there easily and efficiently.

The Midwife: Shipping the trees to the farmers

Once the trees are grown to about 15 cm (6 inches) in height, they are ready to get shipped to their forever homes. The farmers receive the trees in shipments of 1000 to 2000 trees at a time.

In North America we send the little Startlings in large pallets. In Costa Rica we snip off the leaves and take them by truck to the plantation location. Cutting off the leaves reduces transportation shock and the farmers are used to receiving trees in this manner as it is similar to the method used for coffee plants.

Nurture: In the hands of the farmers

Genetics is only half the story. The farmers plant the trees, take care of them, provide water, fertilizer and TLC required for the trees to thrive.

The preparation of the land and the planting is critical for the trees. We visited all our farmers this spring and showed them how to get ready for the arrival of the baby trees. The farmers are shown how to create mounds and prepare planting holes at just the right depth and height to create happy trees. In Costa Rica most of the farmers are intercropping the trees with coffee and do spot plantings.

Every farmer and every landscape is unique and so we provide a personalized plan for each situation.  The plan describes the requirements for fertilization, pruning and irrigation so that the farmer is fully aware of everything that is involved. They are also provided with our extensive Growers Guide and the ongoing personal support of the team in North America (Nick, Kara and Roy) and Costa Rica (Mariana and Adrian).

In Canada this year we were thrilled that so many investors came out to help plant the trees at Empress Acres. Despite the rain, everyone mucked in and we had 5 acres of trees planted in next to no time. Many of the investors painted their names on a rock and placed their marker next to a tree they had planted.