Hoping to increase your retirement income? Seeking ways to help feed your family? Looking for an interesting hobby? Consider growing Christmas trees. Tree farms are found in most cold-weather states.
Unlike typical farm stands, which offer pumpkins, apples, rich red tomatoes, blueberries, sweet corn, and other fresh vegetables in season, growing Christmas trees takes time – six to eight to ten years, depending on your soil and your climate. But experts claim under the right conditions you can grow 500 to 1,000 per acre. Ten or 15 acres could pay off in time.
In the north, where I live (in Maine) balsam fir is the tree of choice. These trees are natives and grow in the wild. They provides that spicy aroma that reminds us of our childhood during our favorite holiday. In our area an enterprising woman has created a successful business selling balsam pillows. Over closer to the Atlantic every fall dozens of people make wreaths from balsam branches and ship them just about everywhere.
A balsam grows best in moist (but not soggy), cool, well-drained somewhat acidic soil.
But as with any crop, weeds are your enemy, so you need to find a way to keep weeds under control. Some people use herbicides, but herbicides are poisons designed to kill weeds, and can have a bad effect on pets, people, soil and your water supply if your water comes from a well.
Serious growers who dislike taking the herbicide risk usually till the soil first, to knock down the initial growth of weeds. before they plant, followed by careful mowing or brush hogging every season. And to perfectly shaped, the trees have to be pruned or sheared by hand each year. That can be a tough job on a large farm.
There is nothing quite like heading for a Christmas tree farm (or the woods), bow saw in your hand, to cut your own tree. What you don’t know is how hard the grower has worked to bring his or her trees to a profitable finish.
There are large growers, as well as small. The Rocks Estate in Bethlehem, New Hampshire consists of 1,400 acres of trees, lined by beautiful stone walls. It also serves as base for the North Country Conservation and Education Center for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. It is open year round for visitors. In the early spring they also tap their maple trees to make maple syrup.
The huge Dutchman Tree Farms in Manton, Michigan (roughly 100 miles north of Grand Rapids on the west side of the state) sells 450,000 trees a year, both live for planting in your yard or cut for Christmas.