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The Best Time to Plant a Tree

A Chinese proverb reads: The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now. UMC founder, Terry Tomann, knew that and made it part of UMC’s culture—dating all the way back to 1968.

“Trees are a lasting legacy, and we can go back years later and appreciate the trees that were planted—even in the previous generations,” says Dick Salonek, director of finance at UMC. “One of the things that’s so interesting to me—because I once asked Terry about his passion—is that it wasn’t necessarily something he enjoyed doing. Taking care of trees is hard work, and although he did get some joy out of it, it was more like he felt like there was this need—if he isn’t planting trees, who is going to do it?”

Terry Tomann passed away in 2014 but continuing to honor his legacy and commitment to company culture was important, Salonek says. Continuing to make Arbor Day a significant celebration at the company just made sense.

UMC gives away about 5,000 seedlings a year. “It’s a lot, pretty awesome to have that impact,” Salonek adds.

Every March, the order form goes out for employees to make their selections. And while the offer is only available to UMC employees, Salonek says there are no limits on where those trees get planted. A wide variety of tree species that do well in Minnesota climate are then purchased through Wright County, from spruce and pine to crabapple and cherry, maple, and oak.

In April, employees help sort the delivered trees and notify that orders are ready.

As for efforts to quantify just how many trees UMC has given away and planted—that’s a bit of a guess. Salonek says that the closest estimate is somewhere around 70,000 to 75,000 trees.

But it’s not just employees and their environments that benefit. In addition to giving seedlings every year, UMC donates trees to the city of Monticello as well. For the past six years, we’ve provided 12 trees each year.” Groups of employees help plant them, but the city then takes over their care. “We always recognize we’re successful because of the support we have from our community, and we want to give back when we have that success,” Salonek says.

“We’re growing a whole forest of trees,” he says. And as far as company benefits go? “It’s unique. And very impactful, if you think about it.”

With 220 employees and growing—UMC’s culture and community impact will continue to take root, one seedling at a time.

Trees are a lasting legacy, and we can go back years later and appreciate the trees that were planted- even in the previous generations.

Dick Salonek, Director of Finance