Needlefast Evergreens, Inc. was started by Bill Nickelson. He was a dairy farmer who did landscaping jobs in the summer time and also trapped in the winter. In 1956, he bought a field of Scotch pine Christmas trees, unsheared, and was able to sell them to another grower who marketed them. In 1957, Bill started our nursery with a half pound of Scotch pine seed. That year, Bill could see potential in the Christmas tree/nursery business so he sold his dairy herd and went into tree farming full time. Son, Jim, and daughter, Nancy, came back after college and became the 2nd generation owners in the mid 1970’s.
Nursery Stock Growers
Nancy and her husband, Jimmy Pakulak, worked together with Jim in the nursery business for almost 40 years. Nancy and Jimmy are now easing into retirement from the nursery. Jim is still actively working in the nursery and the Christmas trees. Jim’s son, Ben, and his wife Charlotte and their family moved back in the spring of 2013 to become the 3rd generation to grow trees. They intend to continue the family tradition of growing fine quality nursery stock that our customers have come to expect. We continue to adapt and evolve to meet the changing needs of Christmas tree growers, landscapers, soil conservation districts and private landowners.
Our location slightly inland from Lake Michigan gives us ideal conditions to grow nursery stock. Our moderate snow pack helps protect the fragile young plants from extreme cold and the damaging effect of winterburn.
Maintaining soil texture has helped us sustain the quality of plants that we have today. We are still growing quality seedlings and transplants on the same soil that was planted in 1957.
Our soil is a rich sandy loam that has been carefully maintained through time-tested practices of fallow, rotation, and enrichment. With the use of green manures and compost manures, we ensure soil stability that continues to produce top quality nursery stock with every harvest.
About Our Operation
Our fields, prior to planting, are fumigated to reduce and/or eliminate weed seeds and soil pathogens, and to eliminate nematodes and grubs and their damaging effects to the delicate root systems. Some seed is vacuum-seeded, while other seed is spread with the use of a Gandy spreader.
We have many sources of water for irrigation. These include two six-inch wells, one eight-inch well, and two irrigation ponds.
Most stock is harvested within a two-year time frame. Some goes to three years. We harvest some seedlings specifically for planting in our transplant beds, where they are planted with a 5-row Mechanical transplanter. This gives the young plant additional space to gain caliper, height and root development.
The seedlings and transplants are lifted as early as possible in the spring, which generally falls late-March. After the initial start and stop phase due to inclement weather conditions, lifting operations are soon in full swing. The seedlings and transplants are lifted using a Fobro lifter. A crew of men follow the lifter, pull the stock out of the ground, and place in tubs. They are species-tagged and delivered to one of two sorting barns, where they are carefully hand sorted and graded by two small crews of women. Seedlings are then twine-tied in bundles of 50, transplants in bundles of 25. They are then “jelly rolled” for customers who request pick up, or are boxed in the shipping department. Our preferred carrier is UPS. The time frame from first lift to last lift is generally not more than four weeks. Most of our employees are from the local area.
A small amount of our orders are in the fall. Fall orders are dug to order. We do not over-winter any stock.
Jim and Ben strive to grow quality Christmas trees. Transplants are planted on a 5 ½ by 6 foot spacing which allows the tree adequate room to grow a nice, natural, symmetrical shape and develop full sides. Some of our fields are under irrigation, protecting the trees from loss to heat stress, to ensure adequate fertilizer uptake and to maximize needle retention. Trees are pruned midsummer to provide for adequate bud development for the following year. Fraser fir is now our primary species. We also grow Balsam fir, Canaan fir, Concolor fir, Douglas fir, Grand fir, Korean fir, Black Hills spruce, Blue spruce and Scotch pine.
Our experienced harvesting crew helps ensure a late season harvest for fresh-cut, aromatic trees and timely delivery to your lot or farm.
In addition to harvest and sale of Christmas trees, Jim’s wife, Beth and a small crew of ladies make beautiful Fraser fir wreaths for the wholesale and local retail market.
Nancy and Jimmy Pakulak are continuing the seed extraction business. Pakulak Seed Nursery Company has been in business since 1977. They extract seed from the cones of primarily trees from the upper Midwest such as red and white pine, jack pine, Norway and white spruce and white cedar. Seed is tested at the USDA Seed Testing Laboratory in Dry Branch, GA. High quality seed with high germination rates are sent nationwide every year.
David Lokovich assists in maintaining the nursery beds, harvests and packs nursery stock, and helps Jim prune and harvest Christmas trees. Jeanie Anderson, our cousin, has done an outstanding job as Office Manager. Both have been with us since the 1970s, and can easily assist you should you have any questions.
If we do not currently carry species or sizes that meet your needs, we also custom grow stock for our customers. Please contact us if this is of interest to you.
Needlefast Evergreens has offered “exotic” (non-native) conifers in the last few years. If you have planted these in the past, we are always interested in your results. If there is something that you would be interested in us adding, please let us know. Customer input is very important to us. We value your sharing your results so we can pass that information on to other growers. For photos of our Korean fir transplants and Christmas trees, click here.