NTFP Highlight: Blueberries!

By Julie Miedtke

Blueberry Basics:

In Minnesota, native blueberries thrive on acidic soils (pH 4.0 to 5.0) that are low in fertility.    Blueberries are frequently found on burned-over areas from recent wildfires, areas that have been logged or sites with ledge rock or rock outcrops.  Blueberries can also be found growing along the edge of bogs.

Wild blueberry plants are readily established from seed.  As they grow, plants send out underground stems, or rhizomes, that grow on top of the ground.  Roots develop along the rhizome and produce new stems/plants. By the end of the first year, buds are formed and over winter on the plant.   The second year is dedicated to berry production.

Full sun is an essential requirement for berry production.  Plants will tolerate some shade, but overtopping vegetation limits blossoms and fruit production.

Lessons in Integrated Management:

Wild blueberries and Woodlands

An excellent example of integrating blueberry production into woodland management comes from experienced foresters.   In northern Itasca County,  a stand of mature jack pine was harvested in 1978.   The landing area, about 1.5 acres in size was designated as a permanent wildlife opening.  A year later during a field inspection, the forester noticed blueberry plants that had naturally seeded into the site—a definite benefit to wildlife.  The decision was made to manage the wildlife opening for berry production.

The site has been periodically mowed to the height of about 12 inches in 1980’s and 1995.  Overtime, willow and hazel began to encroach into the site, overtopping the blueberry plants, and vegetation treatments have been timed to not interfere with harvesting.   The managing forester is quick to note that this blueberry site is a gem and protected by silence by local families who return each year to harvest berries.

Blueberry Meadows

Lucille Lauer graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in horticulture in the 1980s.  While on campus, Lucille was able to have direct conversations with hort researchers Dr. David Wildung and Dr. Jim Luby while they were developing new cultivated varieties of blueberry plants.  Lucille was excited about the idea and looked for an opportunity to put her knowledge and skills into practice.  After college, Lucille’s family returned to Grand Rapids living on eighty acres of land.   Working with her family, Lucille developed and planted four to blueberries, and has established a thriving ‘u-pick’ business called Blueberry Meadows.  The business was started on a shoestring and has provided gainful employment for extended family and neighbors.  For Lucille, Blueberry Meadows is really about quality of life with no traffic or commute, healthy outdoor work and interactions with friends, family and neighbors who come and pick berries!

The most recent patch was established in 2006, planting two acres with Chippewa and North Blue varieties.  The meadow was fenced to keep deer from depredating the site that was cost-shared through DNR.  During the spring of 2010, Lucille obtained funding through the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and installed a 30x 72 foot high tunnel was installed over a few rows of blueberry plants.  The high tunnel will benefit the plants during cold, wet springtime weather AND to give her business an edge by producing berries earlier.

For more information:

Commercial Production in MN and WI

For home landscapes

University of Maine’s Wild Blueberry Page


July 6, 2010 at 10:54 am Leave a comment


Agroforestry integrates forestry technologies into agricultural practices. Through the incorporation of woody shrubs and trees into crop and animal production, agroforestry aims to improve production, protect soil and water resources, diversify income and contribute to sustainable land management. Some common agroforestry practices include alley cropping, windbreaks, riparian buffers and silvopasture but may also be broadened to include any practice, save forestry, that utilizes trees and woody shrubs in a managed production system.

The material presented on this page provides an introduction to different agroforestry practices and the ways in which agroforestry can be used in agriculture, communities and mix-used areas. A list of demonstration sites in Minnesota and financial/ technical assistance programs is also provided.


Photo courtesy USDA NRCS

The Center for Integrated Natural Resources and Agricultural Management (CINRAM) works closely with University of Minnesota Forest Resource Extension office on agroforestry issues. Visit CINRAM’s website for more information on their research and agroforestry work.

Please contact the Forest Resource Extension office with any agroforestry related questions. Phone: (612) 624-3020. Email: treeinfo@umn.edu. In addition, Diomy Zamora, Regional Extension Educator based in Brainerd, has expertise in agroforestry, hybrid poplar and renewable energy and is available for consultation. Email: zamor015@umn.edu. Phone: 218-828-2332


A guide to agroforestry resources and demonstration sites: Agroforestry in Minnesota-University of Minnesota

An introduction to agroforestry practices in Minnesota:Discovering Profits in Unlikely Places: Agroforestry Opportunities for Added Income-University of Minnesota

A guide to agroforestry practices in agriculture:Working trees for agriculture-USDA, communities: Working trees for communities-USDA

December 3, 2009 at 3:02 pm Leave a comment

Northern Minnesota phenology report: December 2009

By John Latimer, KAXE Radio, Grand Rapids

This time of year we turn our attention to the critters that don’t
migrate or hibernate or if they do migrate they come here to spend the
winter in balmy northern Minnesota. For some like the robins it is a gamble
for if they do survive they have their pick of the territories in the
spring. That is a big “if” however because they can easily get trapped and
perish before they can travel far enough south to find food.
I heard of one intrepid robin that joined a flock of bohemian waxwings. The bohemian
waxwings are an example of a species that migrates to the area to spend the
winter. The robin and the waxwings survive the winter eating fruit and by
joining this flock the robin markedly increased its ability to locate food.Cardinals do not migrate. They are expanding their range ever farther north.
The note from 1988 was the first I had seen in the area. Now there are
regular sightings in the Grand Rapids area. In the spring and summer when
they are singing  they can be heard all along the Mississippi river in town.
Many people have reported seeing them at their feeders throughout the year.

If a cardinal shows up at your feeder this winter it may stay. They prefer
black oil sunflower seeds and a place to hide when they are not eating. A
few balsam or spruce near the feeder will give them the shelter they seek.
Cardinals often visit the feeder just around sunrise and again just before
sunset.  What they do the rest of the day remains a mystery.Chickadees are year around residents wherever they are found. They are
inquisitive and convivial guests at nearly all feeders. There is some
evidence that some chickadees do migrate, though not always in a north south
direction. Whatever the case there is almost always a flock near every
feeder. These flocks assemble shortly after the young birds are fledged in
mid-summer. They remain together on a territory throughout the winter. Often
you can hear them when they contact another flock as much singing will
occur. The territories tend to be 10 to 20 acres in size and are defended by
the entire flock.

In late December and early January the dominant males will begin to sing a
new song. It is a lovely two note “fee bee”. When you hear this it is a sign
that the males are starting to choose a mate and the flock will be breaking
up soon. Often two or more males within a flock will sing at the same time.
This can signal a struggle for territory.

As breeding pairs chickadees require about a ten acre territory and the males are trying to see who will
control the area. They seldom sing this fee bee song inside of ten yards of
one another. Once they have closed to that range a much quieter battle
ensues. The songs are different and may be accompanied by chases. Sometimes
the birds will appear to stop the skirmish to feed a bit. The real struggle
for territory occurs as they approach their nest building phase in April. In
the meantime watch and listen as the chickadees surround us with their
exuberant good cheer through the depths of winter.

John Latimer is well known throughout northern Minnesota for his phenology work. He appears weekly on KAXE radio in Grand Rapids, and audio and twitter archives are available here. His work is a frequent feature on MyMinnesotaWoods.  This article also appeared in the Duluth Senior Reporter.  It is printed with the author’s permission.

December 3, 2009 at 11:08 am Leave a comment

Itasca County woodland property tax postcard

On November 20, 2009,  a postcard was mailed to owners of 20+ acres of woodland in Itasca County.  If you’ve just received a postcard and are looking for more information, you’ve come to the right place.

Naturally, the first step is to develop a Woodland Stewardship Management Plan for your land.  A Woodland Stewardship Management Plan is an overview of your property developed with your goals for your land.  A Woodland Stewardship Management Plan may qualify you for cost-share funds that can reduce costs for projects like tree planting.  There is a fee for the plan, and there may be a delay due to high demand.  Learn more about recent Woodland Stewardship Plan policy changes here.

Woodland Stewardship Plan Writers Serving Itasca County:

1.  MN DNR Forestry:
Currently there are two MN-DNR Forestry offices that provide services in Itasca County (See Map).  Due to a reduction in funding, the DNR has recently made changes in its program and will be moving to a fee for service based program.
  • Deer River Area:
    Terry Keeler,
    1201 Hwy. 2
    Grand Rapids, MN 55744
  • Hibbing Area:
    Roger Nelson,
    7979 Hwy. 37,
    Eveleth, MN 55743
Itasca County DNR Forestry Areas

Deer River (green) and Hibbing (blue) DNR-Forestry areas in Itasca County

2.  Itasca Soil and Water Conservation District

  • 1889 East Hwy. 2
    Grand Rapids, MN 55744

3.   The Minnesota Association of Consulting Foresters

Current Property Tax Programs for Qualifying Landowners in Itasca County

1.  2c Managed Forest Land Tax Classification:
This is a new tax classification for vacant wooded land.  The class rate is 0.65%, 35% lower than the class rate for 2b Timberland.  Enrollment requires a registered Woodland Stewardship Management Plan.  Landowners must complete the application form CR-2c MFL and provide it to the county assessor to verify that the property qualifies for this program.  Learn more about the 2c Managed Forest Lands tax class.

  • Itasca County Assessor’s Office
    123 NE Fourth Street
    Grand Rapids, MN 55744

2. Sustainable Forest Incentive Act
This program, administered by the MN Department of Revenue, provides woodland owners with an annual incentive payment.  This program requires filing a covenant with the county recorders office. You’ll need the legal description of your property, a copy of the woodland stewardship plan map and parcel identification numbers (PID).   Be sure to exclude any area that you might develop in the future.  For complete details, read the SFIA Fact Sheet.  Allow the county recorder two to three months to process your request.

  • Itasca County Recorder’s Office
    123 NE Fourth Street
    Grand Rapids, MN 55744

To learn more:


Call the Itasca County Woodland Owner’s Answerline 218-327-2815
Email: itascawoods@co.itasca.mn.us

November 22, 2009 at 6:36 am Leave a comment

DNR Forest Stewardship Program policy changes

By Gary Michael, MN DNR – Division of Forestry

The Department of Natural Resource Division of Forestry’s Forest Stewardship Program (FSP) is undertaking a major shift in how it operates. For decades the FSP has been delivering free forest management plans to non-industrial private forest landowners.  A recent change in funding will require the FSP to be a more self sufficient program.  To achieve greater self sufficiency, the FSP is moving to a fee for service based program.

Stewardship eligible lands are any forestland with existing tree cover and other woody vegetation or lands suitable, and likely, for growing trees and other woody vegetation or land which has significant effect (e.g., streams within a wooded type, wetlands, fields to be planted for wildlife or timber, etc.) on the forested acres.

The minimum acreage necessary to receive a stewardship plan is twenty acres of tree or other woody vegetation after the plan has been implemented.  Exemptions may be applied for on either a county or individual basis.

A couple of examples to help clarify the twenty-acre minimum are as follows:

  • If a landowner owns 40 total acres with only 11 acres of woodland, and he or she is interested in planting 9 more acres of trees, they would be eligible to receive a Stewardship Plan and would be eligible for cost share assistance.
  • If a landowner owns 18 acres total, and all the acres are wooded, he or she would need an exemption to receive a Stewardship Plan, as they could not meet the minimum 20 wooded acre criteria.
  • If a landowner has 30 total acres with only 11 acres of woodland and the landowner does not have any interest in establishing additional acres of trees or other woody vegetation, he or she would not be eligible to receive a plan unless an exemption has been granted

The fee will be a minimum of $230 for a 20 acre plan and a maximum of $1,000 for all plans over 260 acres (up to 1,000 acres).  The plan writing fee will be rounded to the nearest whole dollar.  All stewardship plan requests over 1,000 acres should be turned over to a FSP partner (consultant forester) so that they can negotiate with the landowner a fee for service (cash plan).

Formula to calculate Stewardship Plan fees:

Formula to calculate the fee for a new or revising an outdated stewardship plan [(stewardship acres – 20 acres)*$3.21)+$230 = plan writing fee

A few examples:

43 acre stewardship plan:  [(43 acres – 20 acres)*$3.21] + $230 = $304

178 acre stewardship plan:  [(178 acres – 20 acres)*$3.21] + $230 = $737

271 acre stewardship plan:  This request is over 260 acres, so the cost is $1,000
Many times only a portion of the land is eligible for a stewardship plan.  The fee only reflects the acres included in the plan.  The forester will determine the plan acres.  All plans will need to be registered with the DNR Division of Forestry.


November 20, 2009 at 6:50 am 3 comments

November monthly email update

This month’s update from MyMinnesotaWoods.org is now available.

This month’s features:

  • 09november-230pxResponse: Dauerwald, ecological forestry, and late-successional structure
  • North Central Forest Management Guides: Bottomland hardwoods
  • John Latimer’s Northern Minnesota phenology report
  • Meet a Minnesota Logger: Tom Kruschek
  • Protecting tree seedlings from deer
  • Featured link: Tree ID resources from MNTCA.org
  • And, as always, discussion board, upcoming events, news, poem of the month, and a quiz.

Read this month’s update here.

November 10, 2009 at 3:17 pm Leave a comment

Two videos: Natural disturbance-based silviculture and restoring late-successional structure

Back in June 2009, someone named Tom posted a great question about applying the Dauerwald concept in Minnesota.  In a nutshell, the Dauerwald approach involves intensive management designed to maintain a high diversity of tree species and ages.  This approach can be attractive to those interested in active management but less comfortable with more extensive harvests such as clearcuts or shelterwood treatments.

This month we feature a two-part video response to Tom’s question and the ensuing discussion from Tony D’Amato, silviculturist at the University of Minnesota’s Department of Forest Resources.  Tony’s first video addresses the concept of natural disturbance-based silviculture.  His second video addresses a somewhat related concept, of active management to restore late-successional structure. Tony discusses how ecological forestry can complement other approaches like production forestry and multiple use sustained yield forestry on the landscape.

Ecological forestry: Natural disturbance-based silviculture


Ecological forestry: Restoring late-successional forest structure


Your turn

How does (or doesn’t) ecological forestry fit into your woodland plans?  Why or why not?  Leave a comment below or add to the initial discussion begun by Tom.

November 10, 2009 at 6:05 am Leave a comment

Northern Minnesota phenology report: November 2009

By John Latimer, KAXE Radio, Grand Rapids

Ruby meadowhawk by Jim FrazierThe last of the meadowhawk dragonflies will put in an appearance in early November. These small, bright red, insects are among the last to fly about in the fall. A warm day or two in the early part of the month will send them out in a last and probably fruitless search for other flying insects.

Flickr photo “Ruby Meadowhawk” by Jim Frazier. Original.

If you have been observing them throughout the fall you may have noticed them flying in tandem with the female periodically touching her abdomen to the grass. She is depositing eggs. Her strategy is to place her eggs on stalks of grass that will be inundated in the spring. Once awash the eggs will begin to develop and the larval stages will terrorize the shallow ponds and lake edges until late summer when they will emerge and terrorize the flying insects.

Dragonfly by Chris CoomberThose eggs mistakenly laid in the grass that may be your lawn will likely never develop. No one is perfect and least of all the meadowhawk dragonflies, but what they lack in foresight about those areas likely to flood they make up for in sheer numbers of eggs laid. Some of them will end up underwater and the species will survive.

Flickr photo “Dragonfly” by Chris Coomber. Original.

In the case of the meadowhawk dragonflies they survive the winter as eggs or larvae, but what about the Compton’s tortoiseshell or Mourning cloak butterflies? How do they survive the cold? They over-winter as adults and without an approach to overcome the cold they would freeze and die. For many insects the strategy is freeze avoidance.

There are three elements to freeze avoidance. First, the insect produces an anti-freeze which circulates in the blood. These special proteins bind with any ice crystals that may form keeping them small and preventing them from doing damage.

Chionea species by C WoodSecond, they produce sugars and sugar based alcohols which act to lower the freezing point of any water in the body. These typically take the form of glycerols that by mid-winter may constitute 20 to 25% of the insect’s total body weight.

Flickr photo “Chionea species” by C Wood. Original.

The final part of a freeze avoidance strategy involves finding a dry location. Staying away from water and the resulting ice is imperative. Ice can act as a nucleator for the development of further ice crystals. The butterflies must find secure dry locations, other insects might construct waterproof cocoons or some other personal protection, but the butterflies lack this ability. This perhaps explains why I find so many of them in my garage.

John Latimer is well known throughout northern Minnesota for his phenology work. He appears weekly on KAXE radio in Grand Rapids, and audio and twitter archives are available here. His work is a frequent feature on MyMinnesotaWoods.  This article also appeared in the Duluth Senior Reporter.  It is printed with the author’s permission.

November 9, 2009 at 11:15 am Leave a comment

Conference: Growing the Bioeconomy

Some MyMinnesotaWoods readers may be interested in this early December, 2009 event:

Growing the Bioeconomy: Solutions for Sustainability

Dec. 1-2, University of Minnesota Continuing Education and Conference Center, St. Paul campus

Hosted by University of Minnesota Extension and the University of Minnesota Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment. Cost is $50 per day, $85 for both days.
Program schedule and registration.

This two-day conference will bring together national and local players from Minnesota’s bioeconomy to explore renewable energy opportunities. Agricultural producers, landowners, community and business leaders, and citizens interested in economic development and biorenewables are encouraged to attend and identify ways they can participate in solutions to the global climate change and energy supply issues facing Minnesota.

On December 1, you’ll be part of a virtual conference hosted by 12 Midwest universities. You’ll get a big picture overview of the issues through broadcast viewing and a live panel discussion. Speakers include: U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu, Renowned biochar and climate change expert Dr. James E. Lovelock.

December 2 is all about Minnesota. We’ll focus on local success stories, getting your questions answered, and giving you information you can put to use right away.

Learn more about the conference, including agenda and registration, here.Conf

November 9, 2009 at 8:38 am Leave a comment

Poem of the month: The Wood-Pile

The Wood-Pile

Out walking in the frozen swamp one gray day,
I paused and said, ‘I will turn back from here.
No, I will go on farther – and we shall see.’
The hard snow held me, save where now and then
One foot went through. The view was all in lines
Straight up and down of tall slim trees
Too much alike to mark or name a place by
So as to say for certain I was here
Or somewhere else: I was just far from home.
A small bird flew before me. He was careful
To put a tree between us when he lighted,
And say no word to tell me who he was
Who was so foolish as to think what he thought.
He thought that I was after him for a feather –
The white one in his tail; like one who takes
Everything said as personal to himself.
One flight out sideways would have undeceived him.
And then there was a pile of wood for which
I forgot him and let his little fear
Carry him off the way I might have gone,
Without so much as wishing him good-night.
He went behind it to make his last stand.
It was a cord of maple, cut and split
And piled – and measured, four by four by eight.
And not another like it could I see.
No runner tracks in this year’s snow looped near it.
And it was older sure than this year’s cutting,
Or even last year’s or the year’s before.
The wood was gray and the bark warping off it
And the pile somewhat sunken. Clematis
Had wound strings round and round it like a bundle.
What held it though on one side was a tree
Still growing, and on one a stake and prop,
These latter about to fall. I thought that only
Someone who lived in turning to fresh tasks
Could so forget his handiwork on which
He spent himself, the labor of his ax,
And leave it there far from a useful fireplace
To warm the frozen swamp as best it could
With the slow smokeless burning of decay.

-Robert Frost

November 9, 2009 at 12:08 am Leave a comment

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