Make Money Collecting and Selling Pine Boughs

How to make money collecting and selling pine boughs, including balsam-bough basics, finding a buyer for tree boughs, tools for picking branches and picking techniques.

| November/December 1982

You can make money collecting and selling pine boughs, you can make dollars or make decorations for your friends. Includes balsam-bough basics, finding a buyer, tools for picking and picking techniques. 

You can actually pick your way to a degree of financial independence by collecting boughs of balsam fir (Abies balsamea). It's an enterprise that allows you to be your own boss . . . requires no special tools . . . and is so easy the whole family can pitch in. Best of all, when the picking is done with care, the trees aren't damaged . . . so a homesteader can turn a grove of evergreens into a renewable source of income.


This is how the business works: In the fall of the year, roughly from late September through early December, firms that manufacture Christmas wreaths are in the market for fresh, green balsam boughs. And since (in my experience) the demand for this product always seems to outweigh the supply, you'll likely be able to sell all the branches that you can collect . . . provided you make the proper contacts before you head for the woods.

Here in northern Wisconsin, entire families take to the forest each fall, devoting every hour of daylight to the balsam harvest. Some groups make several thousand dollars during an average ten-week picking season, and a few old hands actually earn their entire annual income in this way.

My wife and I first began picking boughs when we moved to our homestead in 1976. And although the branches can be sold by the bundle, the pound, or the ton, we opted to be paid by the ton. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Current prices paid to balsam gatherers vary considerably—from as little as $300 per ton to as much as $1.00 per pound—depending upon the part of the country you live in and the size of the order. Check with a local nursery to determine the going rate for balsam . . . or for other evergreens preferred in your area.] 


If you'd like to try your hand at this bucks-for-branches business, the first thing you'll need to do is to locate a good stand of balsam trees. The evergreens grow from Minnesota to the Atlantic and south into Virginia, as well as all across Canada. Similar species are found in the western states (most notable among them is the Douglas fir) and in the high mountains of the South.

6/21/2016 4:22:03 PM

Hand-crafted Christmas decorations using fresh evergreens is always a great idea - not only to make some extra cash on the side, but craft floral evergreens make for great gift-giving ideas too! You don't have to find and trim yourself either, if you're not the crafty type. There are wonderful providers of quality wholesale Christmas wreaths and garlands that you can purchase and resell, like Oregon Evergreen & Willamette Evergreen in the Pacific Northwest (check them out here - ) and they ship everywhere, which is great if you live in a warmer climate that doesn't naturally grow these beautiful greens.

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