Christmas tree growers and those considering getting started are invited to attend a pre-season Cornell Cooperative Extension workshop on Christmas tree farming. This is an opportunity to look at stands of production trees in different stages of development, to speak with experienced growers and to ask questions of both the growers and Cornell Integrated Pest Management specialist Betsy Lamb. Among the topics we will be discussing are site selection, obtaining and caring for planting stock, cultural practices (shaping and shearing), insects and diseases, and marketing. The workshop is free and open to the public. We hope to be able to offer one state Department of Environmental Conservation pesticide applicator re-certification credit to attendees needing re-certification credits.
The workshop will start at 10 a.m. Oct. 12 at Red Barn Christmas Tree Farm in Brainardsville.
According to the American Christmas Tree Association (ACTA), recent Nielson Research data indicates that 21.6 million real Christmas Trees will be sold in the United States this year with an average retail price of $46. In other words, American households will spend nearly $1 billion purchasing real Christmas trees for the 2012 Christmas season.
Very few consumers know or even consider where their trees come from, and even fewer realize the challenges faced by Christmas tree producers. Large investments, long-term commitment and lots of work are required. There are the production costs, which include the price of seedlings and machinery such as tractors, mowers, tillers, sprayers and shearing tools. And there's the cost of fertilizers and pesticides, and other miscellaneous items, such as gates, signs, and flagging.
Christmas tree farming integrates elements of both agricultural production and forestry. However, Christmas trees can be produced on land that would be only marginally productive for agriculture, and Christmas tree production requires less ground cover disturbance than that needed with many agricultural crops. What's more, Christmas tree rotations are much shorter than timber rotations and Christmas trees can be grown economically on small acreage, whereas agricultural crops and timber production often require large acreage for economical management.
Christmas tree sales may be seasonal, but Christmas tree production is not. Year-round management and maintenance are required. Christmas trees need to be planted, sheared and harvested. And there is always the risk that nursery trees will fail or that their growth, appearance and value will be profoundly impacted by drought, heavy rain, wind, hail, ice or other environmental stress, or by disease, weed and/or insect pressure or rodent damage. Road building and maintenance may be required, as well.
Marketing can be a challenge, too. Markets and market trends change constantly. Prices fluctuate from year to year. And quarantines may be imposed restricting transport of trees out of state or into other counties in an effort to control or eradicate disease or insects, should they be discovered.
While some Christmas tree growers are businessmen, others are hobbyists. And the two will often have very different goals and approaches. A businessman might elect to grow a single tree species, the one that will provide the greatest return. An enthusiastic hobbyist might select a favorite variety or several varieties of trees, even with the knowledge that the overall return on his or her investment will not be as great.
For many private landowners, the decision to grow Christmas trees will often be just one part of an overall land use plan. That plan may be designed to protect, preserve and improve aesthetic beauty and wildlife habitat. It may encompass other recreational and entrepreneurial opportunities that the owners' forest land provides. And it may include agricultural enterprises such as apple orchards, U-Pick berries, fresh vegetables, or forage crops.
Christmas tree production is generally thought of as environmentally friendly, too. Christmas trees are 100% biodegradable. They are often recycled into mulch, to be used in gardening or to prevent soil erosion. And they are a renewable resource. In fact, according to University of Illinois Extension information, 93% of consumers recycle their real Christmas tree in either community recycling programs or their garden or backyard. And, once harvested, plantation trees are replaced with seedlings.
One well known Franklin County 'Choose and Cut' tree farm is the Red Barn Christmas Tree Farm, owned and operated by Joyce and Richard King. The farm is located on the Brainardsville Road, approximately 9 miles east of Malone and 2 miles west of the hamlet of Brainardsville. When Mrs. King says that she and her husband have been Christmas tree farmers for what "seems like a lifetime," it's because it has been a lifetime.
Today, Red Barn Christmas Tree Farm is primarily a choose and cut operation, but in the more than 50 years that they've been in business, the Kings have marketed trees and boughs to wholesale buyers in and around Poughkeepsie, Kingston and New York City, and retailed Christmas trees and wreaths at the Farmers Market in Syracuse. During that time, the King family has harvested, transplanted, cared for and sold about 100,000 balsam fir Christmas trees.
Red Barn Christmas Tree Farm is perhaps the oldest Christmas tree farm in Franklin County. Located on County Route 24 (Brainardsville Road) approximately 9 miles east of Malone and 2 miles west of the hamlet of Brainardsville, Red Barn farm has several thousand trees growing in rotation on a total of about 20 25 acres of land.
Join us for what will certainly be both an informational and motivational workshop. To register or for more information and / or directions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County at 518-483-7403. And be sure to dress for the weather! Hope to see you there!