Kiester tree business foresees busy spring

Published 7:36 pm Wednesday, March 27, 2019

KIESTER — Go ahead and call Rustic Pines Tree Farm & Crafts owner Keith Rinehart a treehugger. He won’t mind.

“That’s why I’m in this business,” he said.

Rinehart and his wife, Carol, started their business in 1993 and began selling Christmas trees in 1998. Since then their family, which includes adult sons Zachary and Elijah, have started an annual tradition of spending most of Thanksgiving Day preparing for the Christmas tree sales that begin the next day.

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Ready trees are flagged, individually accessed and priced, while the craft store is stocked with homemade crafts, gifts and decor items made by area consignors. The Rineharts also made wreaths to sell, but make it a point to make sure they don’t make too many in advance. This ensures customers receive fresh wreaths that will last throughout the season.

The business also carries roping, which they get from another tree farm, and accessories for trees, including ornaments, lights and tree toppers, among other items.

The farm opens on Black Friday — the day after Thanksgiving — with hot cider and coffee ready for guests who choose and cut their own tree. The Rineharts will place the tree in a tree shaker to shake out all the loose needles and birds’ nests, and will bail and help load the tree for their customers.

They take a small break before spring arrives. While there is always something to do with the Christmas trees, including trimming, spraying and checking trees for damage from deer and rabbits, Rinehart has other projects to work on as well.

When he’s not running loads as a commercial truck driver, he also moves and installs trees for customers on a custom order basis.

“We have a very busy spring ahead of us,” Rinehart said.

A lot of this work, he said, will be installing windbreaks for farmers.

Windbreaks are linear plantings of shrubs and trees in rows to direct air flow up and away from structures, crops and animals. Benefits of windbreaks vary depending on where they are placed, but they typically help reduce energy costs of heating and facilities affected by wind, and help with soil and water conservation. For these reasons, Rinehart feels they are well worth the cost.

“They pay for themselves,” he said, adding that farmers in the area can seek out financial assistance that can help pay for the cost of installing the windbreaks.

According to the Natural Resource Conservation Service, there are different programs that can provide this assistance. One of them is the Environmental Quality Incentive Program, which is available to qualifying producers on record with the Farm Service Agency. While farmers can apply for assistance at anytime, the program has deadlines throughout the year and not all applicants are accepted. The next deadline to apply for EQUIP is April 19.

For more information on EQUIP or other programs that can provide financial assistance, farmers can contact the Albert Lea Natural Resource Conservation Service field office at 507-373-7960.

Despite popular belief, Rustic Pines does not typically have trees on site, but will order and install them for customers. Trees are usually ordered in the summer and fall months and arrive in the spring, and the trees it does end up having in stock are leftovers from other orders.

Trees arrive when Rinehart requests them to be delivered. With all the snow the area received this year, he said it’s a little too early to determine when that will be.

The Rineharts also plan to renovate their craft shop this year, including new roofing, rewiring and new doors and windows.

Whether they plan to purchase a tree or not, the Rineharts said area residents are always welcome to stop by when they are open for the Christmas season.

The couple is now on their third generation of customers and loves to watch the families grow.

Children may even get lucky this year, as the Rineharts have extended an invitation to Santa to make a guest appearance.

For more information on Rustic Pines, visit its Faceebook page or website at