Price County MGV’s Educate with Community Growing Center

Jodi PodmolikJodi Podmolik, Price County UW-Extension Horticulture Educator

What a delight to live and work in Price County, the 5th largest county in the state’s 72 counties. The county is known for its spectacular natural beauty, including vast areas of national, state and county forestland, and 18,000 acres of water. Price County is the home to 14,159 people scattered throughout the area in small cities, villages and townships. With our large land mass and low population, available education is not always easy to find. To bridge the gap in educational opportunities a partnership was built in 2014.

The Flambeau River Community Growing Center (FRCGC) was established spring of 2014. The nonprofit greenhouse is located in the heart of Park Falls next to the Flambeau River Papers Mill. The program is designed to foster public engagement and advance the Wisconsin Idea, which is the principal that the university should improve people’s lives beyond the classroom through teaching, research, outreach and public service. Some examples of services provided are: square foot and straw bale gardening demonstration beds, hydroponics, aquaponics, rain barrel, landscape design workshops. The greenhouse provides demonstration and community beds, fresh vegetables for the local food pantry along with having a MGV available twice a week to answer garden questions. The School districts and the 4-H programs also come and learn at the center.

The next place I would like to take you is on the back roads winding around the beautiful lakes and rivers. As you drive, have you ever noticed the red (or Norway) pine plantations? They are seen, but not talked about a lot. Price County has approximately 1,150 acres of pine that they run on a 70-90 year rotation from planting to harvest. Typically if a site is going to be planted to red pine a contractor will come in, disk trench and spray herbicide on the site.  The sites usually need to be hand planted due to uneven terrain and stumps.  After the seedlings are planted in rows (6’x8’ spacing), the weeds may need to be sprayed again to release the young pine trees.

The first thinning on a plantation occurs around 25-30 years old. This thinning is typically a row thinning where every 3rd row is harvested within the plantation. After the first thinning, individual trees are marked during the first thinning. This continuous thinning occurs every 10-15 years. The county will thin the stand 4-5 times before it is ready for a final harvest. The final harvest includes cutting all the pine left in order for it to be ready for replanting.  Due to disease concerns and the fact that red pine needs full sun light in order to maximize potential; the county doesn’t leave any pine standing after the final harvest.  Some counties do a longer rotation on their red pine than Price, but we have found that once the pine is this old their diameter starts to be too big for most saw mills to take. This limits the market use of the red pine. So, as you’re visiting and driving around Price County, I hope you enjoy our beautiful County.