Minnesota state forests are one of the primary sources of balsam fir boughs and branches used to make holiday wreaths and swags, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
Balsam fir grows in northeastern and north-central Minnesota. The flat, fragrant, dense, dark green needles are well-suited for wreaths.
Each year, about 734,000 pounds of balsam boughs are harvested from state forests between late September and early December. A good day's picking can yield up to 1,000 pounds of boughs-enough to make 200 wreaths, each 25 inches in diameter.
Minnesota is one of the national leaders in the holiday wreath industry, employing thousands of seasonal employees in several Minnesota cities. Workers harvest boughs from forests and assemble wreaths in small factories. Leading up to early December, one leading wreath manufacturer has been assembling up to 1,500 wreaths each day.
"Balsam bough harvesting provides supplementary income for many families," said Paul Dubuque, DNR timber sales program coordinator. "As a home business, families can earn thousands of dollars each season harvesting and assembling basic wreaths."
While individual Minnesotans have made wreaths from balsam fir and other conifers for decades, the industry of harvesting and making wreaths began in Minnesota in the 1960s. Today, Minnesota balsam fir is used in wreaths all over the country.
It is estimated that companies producing wreaths in Minnesota have total sales exceeding $23 million and growing.
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 website at tinyurl.com/nnhx9tw for more information on harvesting balsam boughs.