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Published on : Friday, November 27, 2015
With November rains Christmas tree farmers are looking forward to great yields.
Thanksgiving marks the start of the busiest time of year for Christmas tree farmers, who will tag, cut and trim thousands of trees this holiday season. Despite the late summer near-drought conditions, farmers report a healthy and highly varied selection of trees.
“This year’s crop is looking real good,” says Michael Dupras, manager of Dupras Evergreen Acres in Mays Landing for the past 43 years. Some of the credit goes to several soaking rain events during the past four weeks, which have tree farmers especially happy.
“Trees that are well-hydrated just before cutting lead to longer-lasting trees and happier customers” Dupras says.
Dupras had to rely heavily on irrigation during the abnormally dry stretch from late July through September.So did Mark Newcomb, co-owner of the Ponderosa Tree Farm in Galloway Township.
“We probably irrigated this year more than ever before,” Newcomb said, “and not just the younger seedlings, but the larger trees as well.” Newcomb has from 15,000 to 20,000 trees on his farm. This season, 550 are tagged as ready to be cut. He brings in three tractor-trailers of fraser firs to sell as well.
“Fraser is probably the most popular lot tree in the Northeast,” Newcomb said. “We don’t grow them here, as our climate is a bit too warm.” So Newcomb trucks them in from the mountains of North Carolina.
Newcomb prefers to grow both canaan and concolor firs, the latter being the latest fad in Christmas trees, he said.
“We recently planted 3,000 concolor firs, which are increasingly in demand,” says Newcomb, who credits a unique citrus smell the concolor emits.
Back at Evergreen Acres, Dupras also notes the growing popularity of fir trees.
Douglas fir is one of the most popular locally grown trees, which Dupras grows in addition to Norway spruce, white pine and a few leyland cypress trees.
“The biggest shift over the years has been from pines to firs,” Dupras explained.
Both are known for retaining their needles and for nice aromas, two traits coveted by most consumers.
The Scotch pine, the preferred tree decades ago, became more susceptible to disease and required more spraying and management, he said. Demand dropped as a result.
“White pines are still popular but can be a challenge to decorate as they don’t take heavy ornaments well,” says Dupras.
Dupras has been open since late October, one of the first area farms to open, and says business has been steady from the start.
Ponderosa Tree Farm opened Nov. 15, and most others are open by Thanksgiving weekend.