How to Start a Christmas Tree Farm
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Christmas tree farmers can realize a profit on relatively small plots of land. Unlike vegetables and flowers, Christmas trees don’t require tending every day, so you can raise Christmas trees part time while working another job. Christmas tree farmers realize all their profit only once a year, so you’ll need another source of income or careful money management to carry you through from season to season. Careful planning and patience will reward you with regular sales each Christmas season.
Prepare the Land
Each Christmas tree needs 5 feet of space on all sides, according to Profitable Plants Digest. Allowing for access roads to tend the trees, you can expect to plant about 1500 trees per acre. Washington State University recommends fertile clay loam for growing Christmas trees. The soil should be three to four feet deep with good drainage. Trees take eight to 10 years to mature, and most farmers replant one-eighth of their acreage with new trees each year. After the 10th year, you can harvest one-eighth of your trees each year. If you intend to offer cut-your-own trees, allow extra space for a gathering area, store and visitor parking.
Choose the Right Varieties
Choose varieties of Christmas trees that grow well in your area and that are popular with consumers. Your state’s agriculture extension agent can offer tips about the varieties that grow well in your climate. Talk with Christmas tree markets in the area to learn which trees local consumers like best. Better Homes and Gardens notes that the most popular Christmas tree types include Douglas, noble and Fraser firs and Scotch, white and Virginia pines. Most people want trees that are 5 to 7 feet tall, but allow some trees to grow taller for customers who want a tree for a large room or a room with a high ceiling.
Estimate Your Expenses
In addition to the cost of the land, you’ll need funds to buy seedlings to plant. The cost of seedlings varies, depending on the variety you choose and how many you order, but expect to pay a few dollars per seedling. Other start-up costs include soil tests and the cost of basic equipment. Washington State University recommends you invest in a backpack sprayer, shearing knife, planting shovel and hand pruner. You’ll owe property taxes on the land each year, but you can classify the property as agricultural land, which is taxed at a low rate. You can do the work of planting, weeding and shaping the trees yourself or add the cost of hired labor into your balance sheet. You won’t realize any income from the sale of your trees until anywhere from eight to 10 years from planting.
As a Christmas tree grower, you have the option of selling your trees wholesale to markets, of setting up your own tree stand to sell cut trees in a nearby city or of selling to consumers who come to your property to cut their own trees. You may decide to grow some trees for retail and some for wholesale. You can use the branches you trim from trees to form fresh garland and wreaths to offer for sale.
Cynthia Myers is the author of numerous novels and her nonfiction work has appeared in publications ranging from "Historic Traveler" to "Texas Highways" to "Medical Practice Management." She has a degree in economics from Sam Houston State University.
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