Three Questions for a Christmas Tree Farmer

By Bill Newcott
From the Holiday 2018 issue

3-questions

Christmas trees have been a growing concern for Jim and Lorna Landis since they planted their first firs at Landis Tree Farm near Harbeson in 1991 — and even longer for Lorna, whose grandfather and father both cut and sold trees. Jim, who’s retired from the insurance business (Lorna is a former banker) takes care of the day-to-day business of tree farming from the couple’s rambling house, overlooking 21 acres of evergreens.

Q: Has anyone ever come around looking for a scraggly “Charlie Brown tree”? Yes! We’ve had people come in here looking just for a little tree, one that we’ve probably just planted, that you wouldn’t think could hold a single ornament.

A: We’ve got about 11,000 trees right now, so I guess there’s something for everybody. A few years ago we sold a tree that was 20 to 23 feet tall. For a guy’s living room! People are surprised to learn that Christmas trees don’t naturally have that nice conical shape. They have to be sheared. My wife and I shear the pines and my son comes in and shears the fir trees. He’s got a pair of stilts he wears to get up to the high spots. The thing about growing Christmas trees is, you’ve got to be doing something every month of the year — shearing, irrigating, planting, whatever.

What’s the latest in Christmas tree technology? Is that even a thing? Sure. I’ve read some things recently about a hybrid between a balsam fir and a Fraser fir. I don’t think they’ve produced a whole lot of seeds, so they can’t put them on the market yet. That should be a good mix, because needle retention will still be very good, and you will be able to grow them in a warmer area. In any case, it would be at least eight years before you could buy one — that’s how long it takes before a tree is big enough to sell.

What’s your most exotic Christmas tree? Probably the Korean firs I’m growing out at the back of the property. They’re very slow-growing — the oldest ones have been out there for about five years, and they’re not more than a couple of feet high. I’m just waiting on them to see what happens. It’s one of my experiments. My son doesn’t like them. He says we’ve got to put things in the ground that grow fast!

 

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