Dec. 12–A local family’s commitment to excellence in Christmas tree farming has earned them U.S. presidential recognition for the third time.
Hedlund Trees, located off Schafer Park Road near Brady, is providing a handful of Christmas trees this year for the vice president’s residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. The Hedlund family previously provided trees for Presidents Bill Clinton (1999) and George W. Bush (2002).
Family patriarch Ed Hedlund, who started his business from the ground up about 37 years ago, said he’s learned by trial and error over that time frame and has always maintained a commitment to producing the best quality trees he can.
“That was my goal: Always to do quality trees as opposed to quantity,” Hedlund says.
The competitive bug bit Hedlund in 1988 after a second-place finish at the National Christmas Tree Association’s national contest in Bangor, Maine, setting him up for later first-place finishes that garnered him White House honors.
Participants must first win at the state level to be eligible for nationals, and in recent years Hedlund acknowledged his competitive desires have waned.
“It’s a lot of work, a lot of effort to try to compete at that level,” he said.
That changed recently now that Hedlund’s daughter-in-law and his 29-year-old son, Thomas, have plans to take over the family business. Hedlund said his son, who was just 11 and 14 when the family won their earlier awards, has been the recent driver behind the family’s return to national competition.
Nationals were held this year in August in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Hedlunds’ tree was air-freighted to Green Bay while the family took a red-eye flight to meet it in time. Hedlund said the summer weather made it a challenge to keep their tree in tip-top shape for competition.
Nevertheless, they prevailed, finishing as reserve grand champions and earning the honor of providing trees for the VP’s house. A Wisconsin producer took the grand champion spot and, with it, the right to provide trees for the White House.
One of the perks of winning was a trip East to meet with Vice President Mike Pence, which included a dinner at the VP’s residence and a tour of the White House.
Though Hedlund indicated he already has photos with the Clinton and Bush families, he said this year’s trip remains a special one since his daughter-in-law had never been to D.C. and his son was so young when he made the previous journeys.
The Hedlunds’ trees — which include a main tree for inside the VP residence plus four others — were cut and shipped Nov. 13 and arrived in D.C. on Nov. 20. Trucking firm Old Dominion Freight Line provided free shipping.
Hedlund said that while he does hire limited seasonal labor, the business is mostly a family affair. He described his operation as midsize compared with other producers, and the work in general as very labor-intensive.
“It’s a whole business in itself compared to even timber crop,” he said, adding that producers often must operate for years before startup costs can be recouped and profits can be made.
“It you’re lucky, it’s eight or 10 years down that road before that tree is going to be marketable, sometimes longer,” he said.
In addition to selling wholesale to buyers around the world, the Hedlunds maintain a choose-and-cut lot near Brady for area residents.
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