Arend Tree Farms was founded over 70 years ago and now spans three generations. It started in the early 1930’s when John Arend, a forestry student at the University of Michigan, began to question the importing of low quality Christmas trees when most species could be grown locally. He planned such a project and planted several thousand White Spruce on his father’s farm near Saline, Michigan in 1939. In 1946, most of these seedlings reached Christmas tree size, and his father, Fred Arend, started selling them locally.
During the 1950’s, our family continually increased production, and by 1960, acquired 250 acres along I-94 between Jackson and Ann Arbor and 150 acres near Brooklyn, Michigan. The Brooklyn location was comprised of 50 acres along M-50 adjacent to the Michigan International Speedway and 100 acres along Monroe Pike (Old M-50) just south of Brooklyn.
Seedlings were difficult to find in those days. We purchased all we could get in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York–often not the best quality. 20,000-40,000 seedlings were planted each year with the maximum number reaching 61,000 in 1983. These were mostly Scotch Pine, White Spruce, Blue Spruce, and Douglas Fir.
We obtained a mechanical tree planter in 1950, designed by Bill Mays who was working for the Illinois Central Railroad. This was the only tree planter in southern Michigan for many years, and we received many requests to plant trees for other farmers. We now have a modern tree planter manufactured by Holland Mechanical Tree Planters in Holland, Michigan.
Unfortunately, not all of those planted survived. Quality was poor, and summers were often dry. In 1980, we purchased irrigation equipment to help improve tree survival.
Over the years, we have furnished wholesale trees to Christmas tree retailers in numerous cities and villages in southern Michigan and northern Ohio. Most of our retailers picked up their trees at our plantations although we did deliver a few. Before we had tree balers, this was a difficult task because the trees had to be handled in loose form. For many years, we were the only wholesale operation in southern Michigan.
In 1978, Lee Arend started working full-time with his father, John. This was about the time the general public showed an interest in cutting their own trees for Christmas. This interest grew when the city forester of Detroit declared that the only way to guarantee a fresh tree is to cut it yourself. The demand during the early 80’s became so strong that it was hard to grow enough trees. Through the 90’s and into the new century we have been able to increase the number and sizes of trees to satisfy our customers. Our business is still growing, mainly through word of mouth. In 2006, John Arend, at the age of 93, retired from the daily tree operation. After 70 years in the Christmas tree business, he passed away in September of 2008. Lee Arend continues to run Arend Tree Farms and hopes to do it at least as long as his dad.
The farm operation now includes the third generation of Arends with Lee’s daughter, Anna, and son, Joe. Anna began working full-time in 2007 after she graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in horticulture. Joe received a degree in education from Grand Valley State University, but after several years of teaching, he returned to his “roots” and joined the team in 2010.
Today, we continue our efforts to maintain the success of Arend Tree Farms in order to preserve this holiday tradition for our family and yours.