This could be the perfect time to start growing Christmas trees — whether you are only interested in a few for your own friends and family or whether you want to start a lucrative business on some extra acres — according to Greg Hann, member and promotions director of the Wisconsin Christmas Tree Producers Association (WCTPA).
Most Christmas tree farms in Wisconsin have been established for some time. “Out of the 160 members, less than 10 are new in the industry,” says Hann. “But it’s exciting to watch our organization start to flip to a newer generation. There’s a real opportunity right now because the millennial generation is influencing so many industries. We are happy to see the small mom-and-pop choose-and-cuts are not all being closed. They are being sold to a younger generation.”
“It’s hard to start a Christmas tree farm from scratch because of the long wait, but if you have some land that would work, and some patience, there are possibilities. It’s a pretty small investment for the return.” Hann says.
Here are some suggestion for getting started:
1. First Test Your Soil
Scotch and White Pine used to be popular for Christmas trees here, but in Wisconsin today, buyers prefer the Fraser Fir. This tree is extremely sensitive to soil pH. and will not grow satisfactorily on sites where pH levels exceed 6.2. Hann recommends a pH of 5 to 5.5. “The nice part is that, while this low pH soil that may not be so good for many cash crops — it is perfect for the Balsam and Fraser we grow here for Christmas trees in Wisconsin.”
“You do not want a low-lying area,” Hann emphasizes. “Frasers get phytophthora root rot.” , They do better in higher spots with good drainage where the ground is rocky or not very tillable.
2. You May Need Irrigation
Fraser Firs are not native to Wisconsin. “Some years, you won’t need to irrigate,” Hann says, “but some you will. If you get into serious Christmas tree farming of 10,000 trees or more, irrigation would be beneficial for dry years.”
3. Determine How Much Land You Will Plant
Fraser Firs grow four to six inches a year for the first several years till they have a root base. “After that, you get a foot a year — and that is where we get our calculation of eight to 10 years to produce a seven to nine-foot tree.”
Christmas trees are planted 1,000 to 1,200 per acre. “You can calculate the amount of land to use based on how many trees you want to harvest annually,” says Hann. “With five acres, you can plant around 5,000 trees. Divide that by 10, which gives you 500 a year.” The same calculation can work for a few trees to supply friends and family or a much larger operation. Hann cuts about 6,500 trees a year on his farm near Oregon, WI.
To read more of this article, here is the link to My Wisconsin Woods.
Categories: Ask the Expert, Denise and Doug's published articles
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