Cass County Conservation District still hosting annual tree sale

CASSOPOLIS — With COVID-19 keeping southwest Michigan residents confined to their homes and yards, the Cass County Conservation District is offering a way for residents to get outside and cultivate a green thumb.

Despite a ban on in-person gatherings, the Cass County Conservation District will still host its annual tree sale. No trees will be sold in person. Instead, orders can be placed by phone at (269) 445-8641 ext. 5. Staff can answer questions about inventory, and the sale will continue until all products are sold. Orders will be delivered within Cass County. As of this week, there were still nearly 1,000 trees available, including fruit trees, conifers, shrubs, perennial plants and more.

“We were supposed to have our sale last month, but because of everything, we postponed and weren’t sure if we would have to cancel or what we were going to do,” said Korie Blyveis, Cass County Conservation District Administrator. “We decided not to have a traditional tree sale where people come in and browse trees leftover from orders, but we are continuing to take orders until all the trees are sold.”

Typically, the tree sale is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the conservation district, bringing in anywhere from $8,000 to more than $10,000. As transactions are down due to COVID-19, Blyveis is hoping to make between $6,000 and $8,000 from this year’s sale.

“[The tree sale] is very important for us to conduct our business because otherwise we are run by grants,” she said. “It’s scary because that is budgeted money. We would hate to have to cut back on our staff or our services. We barely make it as it is, so the prospect of taking a loss or cutting back is scary.”

Blyveis said the district was lucky that it would not take a financial loss from this year’s sale due to understanding and a good working relationship with the nurseries that supply the plants for the sale.

“Right now, we are going to make money — I feel great about it — because the nurseries helped us out,” she said. “For a little while there, my gut was sore worrying about how we were going to make ends meet.”

With a plan to still host the fundraiser in place, Blyveis said she would encourage any resident to purchase a plant from the sale to not only support the conservation district and the environment but because it will give them something to do during state-mandated “Stay Home, Stay Safe” orders.

“With everything going on right now, this is something people can do,” Blyveis said. “They can plant trees; they can work in their yards. … I’m a true optimist, and I think everything will all work out in the end.”