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How to Start a Christmas Tree Farm

Learn how starting a Christmas tree farm can provide ample opportunity for additional income and environmental stewardship.  

Whether you’re currently a farmer or someone looking to start, conducting research is an important first step when starting a Christmas tree farm. The Christmas tree industry is a profitable business that plays an integral role not only during the holiday season but also contributes to long-term conservation efforts. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, 25 to 30 million real Christmas trees are sold every year in the U.S. 

Keep reading to learn more about how to start a Christmas tree farm. 

Christmas Tree Industry Facts 

While not widely discussed, the Christmas tree industry plays an important role in American agriculture. According to Executive Director of the National Christmas Tree Association Tim O’Connor, there are approximately 15,000 Christmas tree farmers in the U.S. The economic contributions of Christmas tree farms are significant. In fact, over 11 million cut Christmas trees were sold in the U.S. in 2019, according to the USDA.  

Now that you understand more about the Christmas tree industry and its scope, you may be wondering how to start a Christmas tree farm. 

Factors to Consider When Starting a Christmas Tree Farm 

Starting a Christmas tree farm involves numerous steps and considerations. Steps involved with Christmas tree farming include: soil preparation, planting, shearing, weed control, pest scouting and control, fertilizing, harvesting, labor, marketing, selling, and more. 

Before exploring the specifics of Christmas tree farming, it’s important to develop an understanding of what makes Christmas tree farming unique from other forms of agriculture: 

  • You must be prepared to invest time and money into your operation for several years without generating revenue. Therefore, partnering with a trustworthy lender is an effective way to ensure financial security and stability during this time. 

Expenses 

With any segment of agriculture, it is important to understand the production expenses involved and ensure that you have the necessary financing. When starting a Christmas tree farm, one of the largest expenses will likely be acquiring the land to grow Christmas trees. Other expenses for Christmas tree operations include: 

  • Labor; 
  • Site preparation; 
  • Planting; 
  • Corrective pruning/splinting; 
  • Vegetation control; 
  • Insect and disease control; 
  • Pruning and shearing; and 
  • Marketing and harvesting costs.  

In addition to factoring in expenses, it is important to have a general idea of the possible revenue for your Christmas tree farm. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, the median price of a real Christmas tree in 2019 was $76.87. Your profit depends on your cost of production and how much you sell your trees for, so understanding these two variables is critical.  

Land Purchase 

If you don’t already have land suitable for growing Christmas trees, purchasing this land is an important first step. The land should be accessible, not too steep, and well-drained. Because Christmas trees do not fare well in wet conditions, ideal land for a Christmas tree farm gently slopes to allow for air movement and surface water drainage. Once you purchase the land, it is important to plan the layout of your Christmas tree farm by properly spacing the trees apart to ensure adequate room for growth and vehicle access.  

Christmas Tree Variety 

There are four main varieties of Christmas trees grown in the U.S.: fir trees, pine trees, spruce, and cypress. Before selecting the specific tree to grow, it is important to conduct research and speak with other local producers to discover which varieties grow well in your area and which ones sell best in your local community. It’s also important to understand that the rate of growth for Christmas trees varies between the different varieties.  

Selling Method 

There are several ways to sell Christmas trees which include wholesale or selling directly to the community. When selling to the community, you can offer cut-your-own Christmas trees, precut trees, or both.  

An advantage of selling wholesale is that it saves you time even though you will likely earn less money per tree. On the other hand, selling directly to the community will likely generate a higher price per tree but requires a greater time and labor investment.  

Once you select who to sell to and how, it’s important to develop a marketing plan to spread the word about your Christmas trees. One of the most effective marketing methods for local farmers is to leverage social media to dually advertise their products and share what life on the farm is like with the community. 

Four Reasons to Start a Christmas Tree Farm 

There are multiple benefits to starting a Christmas tree farm that contribute to the health of your operation, the community, and the environment. 

1. Diversification 

Due to the volatile nature of the agricultural economy, diversification is an effective way to build stability into your operation’s business plan. If you already have a farm operation, Christmas tree farming is an excellent option to diversify your crops and earn extra income. In addition, selling other commodities to the community throughout the year is a great way to market your Christmas trees by inviting them to come back during the Christmas season.  

2. Sustainability 

Planting trees has long been associated with environmental stewardship. As such, starting a Christmas tree farm is an effective way to protect the planet and promote the health of your operation’s soil and ecosystem. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, for every one tree harvested, one to three new seedlings are planted. Growing Christmas trees also contributes to: 

  • Carbon sequestration; 
  • Oxygen production; 
  • Runoff reduction; 
  • Wildlife shelter; and 
  • Soil stability. 

The ability of Christmas trees to grow on soil where other crops often cannot grow makes them an effective means of protecting the environment. Furthermore, the longer lifecycles of Christmas trees compared to other crops means that they have more time to contribute to the environment. According to Agweek, only six to eight percent of the Christmas tree population is harvested each year, on average. This means that the majority of the crop is still sequestering carbon, emitting oxygen, and sheltering wildlife.  

Because of this, starting a Christmas tree farm is a great way to implement a sustainable practice that contributes to the health of your operation and the environment while also generating additional income.  

3. Community

Because a growing segment of the community is interested in supporting local producers when possible, opening your Christmas tree farm to the community is the perfect way to connect with them. A cut-your-own Christmas tree farm provides community members with the opportunity to visit your operation and learn more about the people behind agriculture and forestry operations across the U.S. It also allows you to be a part of a cherished holiday tradition for many families. Not only will they learn more about farming, but it’s also likely that they will spread the word about your operation, further increasing your reach.  

4. Demand

The stir-crazy effect of the pandemic has led to an increase in demand for Christmas trees. In fact, the Christmas Tree Promotion Board’s annual survey found that more than half of respondents expected to attend more gatherings this year, increasing their likelihood of purchasing real Christmas trees. 

“There’s a lot of excitement to know that if we can grow it, consumers want to buy it.” 

Marsha Gray, Executive Director of the Christmas Tree Promotion Board 

In addition to increased demand, there is also a dwindling supply of Christmas trees due to an influx in wildfires, drought, and flooding in various parts of the U.S. In conjunction with these natural disasters, supply chain bottlenecks are also contributing to a decline in the U.S. Christmas tree supply. 

Despite these current strains on the supply chain, investing in Christmas tree farms is a long-term investment that sets you up for future growth as bottlenecks begin to ease and the market rebounds. With an average growing time of up to 15 years, the market should have enough time to make a significant recovery by the time you’re ready to harvest your Christmas trees. Therefore, now is a great time to jump into the industry and invest in a Christmas tree farm.  

Launch Your Christmas Tree Operation with AgAmerica’s Flexible Land Loan Spectrum 

Starting a Christmas tree farm requires sufficient, upfront capital—and AgAmerica is here to provide it. Growing Christmas trees requires several years with no revenue, which means you’ll need access to flexible working capital to support your operation during those years. Our spectrum of land loans provides customized funding for individuals looking to begin a Christmas tree farm.  

Get in touch with AgAmerica to discuss our loan options to support your Christmas tree farm. 

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