Paul & Betsy Hoppe, Ogilvie MN

Paul and Betsy Hoppe bought some land 25 years ago. 10,000 seedlings later they have a tree farm!
Their land, 383 acres, straddles the border between Kanabec and Mille Lacs Counties. Their mail address is Ogilvie and the nearest larger town is Mora.

Paul and Betsy bought the land after it had been on the market for a year. The former owner had purchased it right after World War II. The owners before him had failed at farming on the land because the soil is heavy clay and poorly drained. This fellow tried to create pasture for beef cattle but gave that up in 1952. “The land wanted to go back to trees,” Paul said.

Paul spent his career as a conservation officer, first in Glencoe and then in the Mora area. He retired in 2002. “It was a wonderful job but it is also good to be retired,” he said.

Now Paul spends part of every day in the woods. He harvests some wood for his outdoor boiler that heats their home and sells some stumpage. But that is just the start. Maple syrup is an annual string time project. This year, he and Betsy made 28 gallons of syrup. That’s a lot by any measure but especially when you consider the fact that all 1, 120 gallons of sap was collected from trees scattered around the property and carried to a tank behind Paul’s four-wheeler in 5-gallon buckets. “We have a few sugar maples,” Pau said, “but mostly we tap red maple which seems to work just fine.”

Right after finishing with maple syrup, Paul starts work inoculating his mushroom logs. He does Shittake and Oyster mushrooms. “Getting a crop of mushrooms required six months of weather in the 70s. That means here in Minnesota it takes two years,” Paul said.

Paul’s newest projects are honey bees and a pollinator pasture in which he’s planted 60 species of wild flowers.

Off the land, Paul does lots of volunteer work. He is chair of the Kanabec County Soil and Water Conservation District Board, chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee for the Snake River Joint Powers Board and participates on the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts Forestry Committee. Needless to say, Paul spends hours each week in meetings!

Back to those 10,000 seedlings. As anyone who has planted and tried to nurture that many seedlings knows, there are lots of ways to fail. “Some seedlings I planted in the understory 15 years ago aren’t much bigger today than when I planted them,” Paul said. But, those that do grow provide great satisfaction for Paul and Betsy and a legacy for their seven grandchildren.