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Growing a love for trees

Staff writer

When N.M. Patton got the lots behind his house in the 900 block of N. Locust in the ’70s, the possibilities were endless. After a cousin suggested planting Christmas trees, a spark of interest became a decades old ardor of all things trees.

With the help of his cousin, Patton planted 1,000 pine trees his first year. After five or six years, he sold the pines.

“Ever since then, I’ve been interested in trees,” he said.

Patton broadened his horizons.

“I started digging up different trees, like walnuts, oaks, and maples,” he said. “I potted them so they could grow.”

Eventually, Patton registered with the Kansas Tree Farm Committee. The program, administered by the Kansas Forest Products Association in cooperation with the Kansas Forest Service, which promotes renewable forest resources on private lands, protection of the environment and increasing public understanding of all the benefits of productive forestry.

Patton also participates in a similar program through the Missouri State Forestry Department.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time but got more involved when we got our farm 100 miles east of Peabody in Elk County,” he said. “I’ve transplanted about 250 trees from Peabody to the farm, which is about 240 acres.”

Patton’s investment might not pay off for years.

“I expect that after a while my kids and grandkids will get some profit,” he said. “I won’t see a full-grown walnut tree I planted because they’re not ready for 40 years.”

A harvested walnut can fetch up to $10,000.

“Loggers don’t want to come for just one tree though,” he said. “They want to be able to harvest between 150 and 200. You can plant up to 400 on an acre.”

Although Patton may never see the financial gains of his work, there are benefits that he enjoys now.

Trees he planted spanning the east side of his property act as a barrier for sound of passing trains. The trees will continue to block more and more of the sound as time progresses.

Patton’s interest in trees also was fueled by his love of the city park.

“We just cut five more trees down last week because they were dead,” he said. “If we’re going to have trees in the city park, we need to plant new ones. That’s another thing that got me interested.”

Patton wishes he would have discovered the benefits of tree farming sooner.

“I just love trees a lot,” he said. “I’d like to spend a lot more time working with them. If I were younger, I would have somehow been in the tree business and done it for a living.”

Patton recently attended a tree trimming class facilitated by Missouri Forestry Department, and a demonstration about pecan trees through Kansas State University.

“I’d always rather be planting trees than at meetings,” he said. “I enjoy myself a lot of different ways but working with trees is one of my favorite and taught be patience because I want them to grow faster. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.”

Last modified June 21, 2018

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