Thursday, November 22, 2012
Make holiday memories by cutting your own Christmas tree at a Kentucky farm near you
There are a number of Christmas tree farms in Kentucky that allow people to cut their own trees. (Photo from KyChristmasTreeFarms.com)
Cutting your own Christmas tree often brings to mind a Currier & Ives image of a 19th-century family in a one-horse open sleigh towing a large pine through a snow-covered field.
Kentuckians can experience the modern-day equivalent on farms throughout the state, Agriculture Commission James Comer suggests.
“Christmas tree farms enable families to make holiday memories,” Comer says. “They also help Kentucky farmers make a living. I encourage all Kentucky families to buy a fresh Kentucky Proud tree this holiday season.”
At Barker’s Christmas Tree Farm near Lexington, owner Dale Barker will let customers borrow a small sled or wagon to tow the tree back to your car, as well as a bow saw for cutting.
“The majority of the industry in Kentucky is ‘choose and cut,’” says Barker, president of the Kentucky Christmas Tree Association. “It’s an agritourism thing. The kids enjoy going out in the field.”
To encourage their parents to return the next year, Barker’s takes photos of each family and posts them the following year for pick-up.
“They have to come back the next year to get their picture,” says Barker, who has about 600 photos from last year displayed in a small barn. “We’ve had people collect pictures for 10 years. You watch their kids grow up.”
The KCTA website lists 18 member farms across the state.
“We have people from Owensboro to northern Kentucky that raise trees,” Barker adds. “Most people make wreaths and sell tree stands. A few do garland. Some people even get further into agritourism with hayrides.”
(Photo from KyChristmasTreeFarms.com)
Barker said no figures are available on how many Christmas trees Kentucky produces. He sells 500-600 per year, priced from $32 to $100, but 100 of those are Fraser firs he imports annually from North Carolina. “Our general trees, scotch or white pines, are $32 any size,” Barker says.
Barker is concerned about the future of Kentucky’s Christmas tree farms due to the advancing age of KCTA members. “I’m 53 and may be the youngest one in our association,” he says. “There’s room for others. The market is out there. But it’s not something people jump into very often. It’s a long-term proposition because it takes seven years before your first trees are ready for harvest.”
Barker says last summer’s drought was “rough” on KCTA members.
“If you didn’t water small trees last summer, you lost them,” he says. “Normally, you lose 10 to 15 percent of your trees, not 80 to 90 percent. Established trees in good health made it.”
To find a Kentucky Christmas tree farm near you, including Barker’s, click here.
The Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Division of Agritourism website will soon feature Christmas tree farm listings. You can also search for Christmas trees under the “Find KY Proud Products” icon here. The Kentucky Proud website lists 90 member businesses in the Commonwealth that sell Christmas trees.
From Kentucky Department of Agriculture