For various reasons, you need a long-term strategy in order to successfully sell pine trees. First and foremost, trees do not dutifully grow overnight, so you'll need to patiently plant and tend to your crop for several years before you have a tree that can be harvested. Second, your customers will come primarily during November and December, giving you a narrow window in which to advertise and make your sales. Finally, you need to invest in land and equipment to make your pine tree business flourish.
Assuming you have followed the proper steps for setting up a business with your state and have obtained an employer identification number for tax purposes, it's time to learn about the ins and outs of selling pine trees.
You (Usually) Need Farm Land
If you're thinking about selling pine trees, chances are you already have some acreage and are wondering how to make a buck from it. If you don't mind waiting six to eight years to see your return on investment, then growing pine trees to sell for the Christmas market can be a great idea. Although the planting density per acre depends on the particular needs of a pine species, you can plant anywhere from 400 to 1,500 seedlings per acre.
There are a couple of alternative ways to sell pine trees, however. Pine trees can either be started by seed, grown from root cuttings or grafted onto mature root stock. Regardless of the propagation method used, pine tree farmers tend to get a jump start on the process by obtaining these youngsters from a nursery. Instead of selling pine trees to the end consumer, you could sell seedlings to farmers. In that case, you need a slightly different setup, typically a large greenhouse.
The third option for selling pine trees involves purchasing them wholesale from the farmer and reselling them to the general public for a markup. In this case, you don't need to invest in any farm land, but you should already have some available shop space that gets enough foot traffic.
Additional Equipment to Sell Pine Trees
You can sell a unique experience at your pine tree farm by allowing customers to select and chop down their chosen Christmas tree (just make sure you have liability insurance and staff to supervise). Not everyone will want to hack down a tree, so you'll need to have your own chainsaws to do it quickly and efficiently.
Christmas trees are typically small enough to be maneuvered by hand once they are chopped down, but you can improve efficiency with pick-up trucks or flat-bed trailers to move the tree from the field to the parking lot. Finally, you need a tree baler or netter to flatten the branches so your customers can squeeze their trees on top of their vehicles and through doorways.
Don't forget that pine trees aren't only for Christmas, as you can also sell pines to landscaping companies and homeowners. In that case, you'll need a heavy-duty tree spade that removes the tree from the ground with much of its root system and soil intact. Then, it can be optionally baled and can have its roots wrapped in burlap before being loaded for delivery. Make sure you have the budget for all the necessary equipment to care for, manage and deliver your pine trees from start to finish.
Competitive Advertising and Pricing
Finally, it's important to spread the word about your pine tree business. One of the most important things you can do as a pine tree seller is to network with landscaping companies in order to become a preferred supplier. As long as you provide high-quality trees that are free of pests and diseases and that flourish once they are properly planted, landscapers will seek out your trees and recommend you.
You also need to keep your pricing competitive in order to make sales. Prepare a budget to understand how much money you need to make in order to break even and translate that into an absolute minimum per-tree sale price. Then, research your competitors to find a typical range for pine trees of the same age and quality as those you sell in order to determine a price for your pine trees that will generate a profit and attract buyers.
Cathy Habas specializes in marketing, customer experiences, and behind-the-scenes management. Cathy has contributed to sites like Business and Finance, Business 2 Community, and Inside Small Business. She served as the managing editor for a small content marketing agency before continuing with her writing career.