Andy Porter and Eric Nelson

By David Katz

September 2018 – Here in Edina, trees outnumber people – and by a wide margin, at that. Indeed, in the easements along City streets alone, upwards of 30,000 beautify and shade our neighborhoods. Despite their ubiquity, or maybe because of it, we tend to take all these trees for granted.

Long-time residents and business partners Andy Porter and Eric Nelson encourage you to stop and reappraise these easy-to-overlook natural resources. “Edina has a nice, dense tree canopy right now,” Porter explained. “However, when you take a close look at the individual trees, you see problems. Some are reaching the end of their natural lives. Others are diseased.”

Porter and Nelson are uniquely positioned to spot these subtle signs, and to appreciate that they are not endemic to just one or two neighborhoods.

Along with co-founder Mike Jones, the pair are managing partners of Refined LLC, an Edina-based home building and remodeling firm. Since its inception in 2008, Refined has sold more than 100 custom homes – the vast majority in Edina.

“I grew up in Edina, and live in the Pamela Park Neighborhood now,” Porter explained. “For good or bad, there’s a good chance that my grandchildren will live here ... And all this makes me wonder, what will our tree canopy look like 10, 20 years down the road?”

That long-term outlook is the impetus behind Refined LLC’s most recent, and most ambitious, charitable effort to date. Earlier this year, the firm partnered with landscape firm Southview Design to pilot “Trees from Refined,” a novel program to donate young trees to interested homeowners throughout Edina.

Porter and Nelson worked with a Bachman’s arborist and Edina City Forester Luther Overholt to identify the species best suited to this endeavor. Ultimately, for the pilot year, Trees from Refined offered three options: the colorful Autumn Blaze Maple; the hearty, adaptable Swamp White Oak; and the compact and bug-resistant American Sentry Linden.

“We built a website with application materials, and opened this up to everyone, not just our clients,” Nelson explained.

Trees from Refined promised to let participants pick the species and implantation site, and to liaise with Gopher State One Call (GSOC) on each homeowner’s behalf to ensure underground utilities would not present obstacles. Southview Designs agreed to handle installation logistics.

Interest in the initial inventory outstripped the organizers’ expectations. By the end of spring, Trees from Refined had distributed 85 trees to residences in all corners of Edina – and had dozens more on a waiting list. Porter and Nelson also shared 15 trees with the City, to be replanted at 62-acre Pamela Park on the east side of town.

Now that Trees from Refined has “taken root,” Porter and Nelson have high hopes for 2019 and beyond. “We’re shooting for 200 next year, up from the initial 100,” Porter shared. “We already have 70 trees reserved for 52 properties, so we’re off to a healthy start for Year 2 in Edina.”

Ultimately, the pair hope to branch out beyond Edina, by partnering with the county, Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, or other interested and well positioned parties.

“We love that we can contribute to the health of our tree canopy in this way, because Trees from Refined is both an awareness [campaign] and a [concrete] preservation step in itself.”