New innovations by HELP International in planting and producing trees has enabled the group to keep their promises as to being able to fill orders for trees, and to keep the price down at $1.50 per tree.
Executive director and founder of HELP, Rodney Sidloski, said they were able to fill all but one of 250 orders which came in for trees, since they have been trying to keep the former PFRA (Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration) tree farm at Indian Head going in addition to their tree nursery at their Weyburn farm.
Besides maintaining the price, Sidloski said one of the newest innovations that’s never been done before is the ability to plant trees not just in spring, but in the summer and fall as well, which is made possible by their floating nursery facility in Weyburn.
“We’re gearing up for fall tree distribution, a very big focused campaign; a lot of people have said, we didn’t know we could plant trees in the fall,” he said. “It takes pressure off farmers from planting trees in the spring when they’re supposed to be planting crops.”
Planting of trees in summer is made possible, with the trees in full leaf, because of the technique of using the floating nursery with their full root ball kept intact in a container with all the soil, said Sidloski.
“Last week we took 8,000 trees, green in full leaf, and that’s never been done before. We put them in a fridge cooler and brought them to Weyburn and put them in the floating nursery, and it’s working,” said Sidloski, noting the green ash and lilac varieties particularly have been flourishing in this system. He’s been trying also to get dogwood plants to also live in this nursery, but he isn’t sure yet if it will work.
“We’re really hopeful yet. The green ash and lilac are really high-demand trees,” he added, noting the floating tree nursery innovation was just patented as their own invention in June.
Meantime, in relation to the Indian Head tree farm, he said HELP has a lease until October, but there are three First Nations bands that have expressed an interest, with Carry-the-Kettle in particular considering its options — and legally, they have up to 18 months to make their decision, said Sidloski, which doesn’t make it easy on HELP, considering their long-term lease from the city on their current farm location also runs out in October.
Sidloski spoke to the First Nation a few days ago, and they recently held elections, which may impact their decision on whether to buy the property or not.
“HELP would be very willing to sign a lease; we have a full inventory to manage over the winter,” said Sidloski.
As they continue to offer the tree seedlings, he said they will maintain selling them at $1.50 each, “regardless of how dismal the financial picture looks, no matter if one tree might cost more to produce, I’m keeping my prices the same for fall and for next spring.”
Counting up all the tree seedlings, from those in floating nurseries and some waiting to go out, Sidloski estimated he has about 250,000 seedlings that will be ready to go to market by the fall. Some, he said, would be worth $4 to $8 at a greenhouse or other outlet, but he said he doesn’t care what the market is charging, he will only charge $1.50 per seedling, as they promised.
“I think the politics will fall into place if we serve well,” said Sidloski.