Q&A with Joan, Michael and Shelagh Coy, owners of 3 Leaf Farm

FROM LEFT: Joan Coy and her daugher Shelagh and son Michael together own 3 Leaf Farm. They grow Colorado Spruce and other landscaping trees north of Wanham.

When Joan Coy was contemplating how best to utilize her half section of land, the thought of pursuing an alternative to traditional farming came to mind. This led to the idea of growing landscaping trees suited to the Peace Country environment.

She contacted Alberta Agriculture (as the agency was known then) for guidance and was told that, yes, growing landscaping trees could potentially be a viable business. She floated the idea to her daugher Shelagh and son Michael, and the three of them decided to give it a go, and they subsequently launched 3 Leaf Farm, which grows Colorado Spruce (Picea Pungens) and other landscaping trees.

As an allied service to 3 Leaf Farm, Michael also started his own Michael’s Services business.

“I started this business as a necessity. As the trees on the farm were getting older and larger, I began purchasing equipment for the purpose of tree moving,” he told The Central Peace Signal.
“I knew the tree farm would need to have a way to move trees off the land since tree spades are not very commonly owned within the Peace Country. I started with an All Wheel Steer Bobcat, then acquired a truck and trailer to haul it with and finally a 38-inch tree spade because I knew most of the work I would be doing would be tree-related. I added other attachments along the way and now offer a variety of other Bobcat services alongside transplanting trees during spring and fall.”

As the trees on 3 Leaf Farm were getting older and larger, Michael Coy began purchasing equipment for the purpose of tree moving and launched his Michael’s Services business.

Why do people buy Colorado Spruce as an ornamental tree?
The evergreen Colorado Spruce is a popular landscaping choice with its pyramidal shape, pleasing foliage colors and fresh scent. Colorado Spruce provides great winter interest. On a more practical note, it has a hardiness well suited to the Peace Country environment. It needs full sun and a well-drained location and is tolerant of many soil types and pH levels. Once established, it is also drought-tolerant.

New transplants require regular watering for the first three years to establish their root system. They can be planted in rows for effective windbreaks or individually or in small groups as “specimen” trees. Their prickly texture and strong scent render them deer-resistant, an important factor in many plantings.

Do you grow other trees as well? If so, what would be good to mix with Colorado Spruce for landscaping?
Yes, we do. Our primary product is the Colorado Spruce, and we also offer Swedish Columnar Aspen, Balsam Fir, Siberian Larch (Tamarack), Paper Birch, Weeping Birch, Manitoba Maple, Amur Maple Shrubs, Villosa Lilac, and Laurel Leaf Willow.

The Amur Maple Shrub makes a good pairing with the Colorado Spruce with spectacular fall color. We have done many plantings with the combination of Colorado Spruce, Tamarack, and Fir together that look great throughout the different seasons.

How much of your business is driven by: (1) customers within Central Peace, and (2) customers outside of Central Peace?
About one-third of our business is driven by customers within the Central Peace area. Of course, it varies from year to year.

Do you provide after-sale service to customers as far as special tree care after the transplant?
We always welcome questions from customers regarding after-transplant care. We are careful to explain the importance of watering the new transplants as well as the dangers of over-watering. We maintain a section on our website about potential pests and what treatments are recommended.

Tell us about some of the challenges you have to deal with as a business?
Some of our challenges include:

  • weather variables (snow, rain, drought)
  • keeping operating costs low as there is a lengthy period of no income while the trees are being established as well as growing to marketable size
  • limited staff for beginning business
  • limited transplant season (spring and fall when trees are dormant)

Is business expansion in the horizon? If so, how do you plan to expand? What do you see is a potential area of expansion for your business?
We are a young business, but we are very much interested in growth and expansion. We plant trees every year to ensure an ongoing supply into the years ahead.

  • We would like to increase our service to the Central Peace, our home area.
  • We would like to increase our service to landscapers who order trees to be ready for pickup.
  • We want to expand to landscapers who pay only the price of the tree in the field and do spading and preparation for transport with their own equipment.

Our plans for expansion also include selling healthy, high-quality, competitively priced trees.