Morey Schwen - Brainerd, MN

DNR Tree Nursery’s # 1 Customer

In the year 2000, the DNR Tree Nurseries gave Morey Schwen, Brainerd, a plaque in recognition of the fact that he had purchased seedlings for 50 consecutive years! But Morey did not stop there. He has continued to purchase and plant seedlings every year; 800 seedlings this year and, while he is running out of places to plant, he has more planned for next year.

The Schwen family owns 126 acres in the Brainerd area, just west of Gull Lake, where most of the planting has been done.

At 86, Morey shows no signs of slowing down. Besides managing his woodland, Morey is active in his business, Mid-America Energy which distributes ground source heat pumps to heating and cooling contractors. Morey is also chairman of the board of KJLY (, a series of five Christian radio stations located in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa.

Born in 1924, Morey was just old enough to enlist in the Navy during World War II. Because he had had training as an aeronautical engineer, he was sent to flight school to become a pilot. He said, “I was trained to fly dive bombers. We’d climb to 16,000 feet and then fly straight down at the target.” The squadron to which he was assigned was waiting to be deployed for the first time when the Japanese surrendered.

Morey’s interest in woodland started on the family farm located in southern Minnesota near Blue Earth. He tended the woodlots on the farm and began planting trees in 1950. When President Eisenhower led the effort to build our national freeway system, the Schwen family farm was acquired to become part of Interstate 90. In fact, what was the farm is now a rest area outside of Blue Earth. One strip in the freeway at that point is golden in color because it marks the exact halfway point between the eastern and western ends of I-90.

With the proceeds from the farm, Morey bought the 126 acres and a home on the eastern shore of Gull Lake and he and his wife, Marvel, along with their three children started their life in Crow Wing County.

One of his early projects on the land was to create some open water in lowland. He enlisted the help of the local technical college that had a class on using ammonium nitrate fertilizer and diesel fuel to blast ponds. The students dug 18 holes and inserted an explosive charge into each. The charges were wired together and back to a plunger. Morey said, “The blast was so strong, the sky was blackened with flying dirt, trees and roots. The windows in our home on the far side of the lake were rattled.” The process created 2-1/2 acre Lake Schwen.

In case anyone is longing for the good old days when ponds could be dug with a single blast, Morey says forget it, “Digging with a backhoe works better and is far less dangerous.”

In his “spare time”, Morey has served many organizations including his church and the Boy Scouts. His sons Steven and Kent picked up his interest in scouting and both achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.

In the woodland arena, Morey was named Minnesota Tree Farmer of the Year in 1989. And, oh yes, he was president of MFA in 1984-85.

We salute Morey Schwen for a great life of service and accomplishment which isn’t over yet! May you plant seedlings for many years to come!