‘Tis the season for holiday wreaths, swags and garland. These beautiful and fragrant decorations most likely came from a Minnesota state forest. Balsam fir boughs and branches harvested from state forests are used to make wreaths that adorn homes across the nation, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
Balsam fir grows in northeastern and north-central Minnesota and is commonly found in several types of forests. The flat, fragrant needles and durable branches are well-suited for making wreaths.
Each year, about 750,000 pounds of balsam boughs are harvested from state forests between late September and early December. This results in the production of 150,000 wreaths.
Minnesota is a national leader in the natural holiday decor industry. Estimated annual sales for Minnesota companies producing wreaths exceeds $23 million and continues to grow. These companies ship wreaths nationwide and across the globe.
“Balsam bough harvesting and the wreath industry provide thousands of Minnesotans with seasonal income,” said Kristen Bergstrand, DNR utilization and marketing program coordinator. “The balsam fir found in Minnesota’s forests provide the base material to support many of these jobs. Local nonprofits such as Boy Scouts, 4-H and schools sell wreaths and swags as fundraisers.”
Wreaths are made and sold by different businesses. Small family businesses collect boughs, and assemble and sell their own wreaths. Commercial businesses either contract with individuals or families to make wreaths from materials they collect or purchase the raw materials to assemble wreaths and swag in small factories.
While Minnesotans have made wreaths from local forests for decades, the industry of harvesting and wreath making began in Minnesota in the 1960s. The DNR promotes proper bough harvesting techniques to minimize harm to balsam firs and support future bough harvests.
To harvest balsam boughs from state forest lands, all harvesters must get and carry a permit from their local DNR forestry office. Visit the DNR balsam boughs harvesting webpage at www.mndnr.gov/treecare/maintenance/balsamharvest.html for more information on harvesting balsam boughs.