Friday, September 20, 2013

Christmas Tree Farmers Work in Summer to Make a Happy Holiday Season

Jack Beckwith uses his extension shears to shape the top of a tree.
The Christmas season may last only about six weeks or so, but that doesn't mean Central New York Christmas tree farmers don't work during the rest of the year.

Even when it's 90 degrees and the sun is blazing above, farmers like Jack Beckwith of Hannibal and Mark Himes of Mexico are out getting their trees and land ready for the busy season ahead.

“I've been doing shearing and mowing all summer,” said Beckwith, who has been a Christmas tree grower since 1985 and runs Beckwith Family Christmas Tree Farm with his wife, Faye. “You have to continue shaping the trees – every tree has to be shapes every year.”

Without shaping, customers wouldn't see the beautiful evergreens ready to grace the living rooms of homes throughout Central New York. Beckwith said tree branches grow at different intervals, so without shaping, the trees would look haphazard and not at all appealing to the eye.

Beckwith walks many of the 39 acres of forest land he has, checking with an eagle eye each tree's growth pattern. He takes his handy extension shears and will clip back he tops and sides of trees towering 8 to 10 feet tall or even taller.

Beckwith also spends a good part of his summer mowing all of the tall grass that grows in between all the Christmas trees. This year was especially trying, as all the June rains made the grasses grow like wildfire. But the rain also helped newly planted trees, as the soil was moist and the water helped them grow.

Spring on the Christmas tree farm is filled with planting new seedlings that will turn in about eight years into grown trees to be adorned with ornaments and lights. Last year, many Christmas tree farmers, including Beckwith, lost seedlings due to the lack of spring and summer rain.

Mark Himes, who runs Three Seasons Farm in the town of Mexico with his wife Amy, grows and sells white spruce; balsam, Fraser and Canaan fir and white pine trees. They also make and sell  wreaths and boughs for holiday decorations.

“I start trimming trees sometime in June or the first of July,” he said. “Then I trim trees throughout the summer. Trimming, or pruning, helps keep the shape of the Christmas tree without longer branches sticking out. You want to be sure the tree is growing straight.”
Beckwith mows the high grass in between the Christmas trees

He, like Beckwith, also spends a good time of the summer on the mower, cutting back the grass growing near the trees. “We also have to keep checking to keep track of any bugs or disease on the tree,” Himes said.

There are 850 Christmas tree farmers in the state growing the following species of trees: Austrian pine, balsam fir, blue spruce, Canaan fir, Colorado spruce, concolor fir, Douglas fir, Fraser fir, Norway spruce, Scotch pine, white pine and white spruce.

More than 17,000 acres of Christmas trees are  grown in the state and 98 percent of all Christmas trees are grown on farms. Planting and growing Christmas trees are good for the environment as they remove more than 2,000 tons of carbon from the air and release about 5,800 ton of oxygen into the air.

According to the Christmas tree farmers website, Christmas trees remove dust and pollen from the air and an acre of trees provide the daily oxygen requirements for 18 people. Two to three seedlings are planted for every tree harvested at Christmas time. And often, new trees sprout from stumps left after other Christmas trees have gone off to grace area living rooms.

For more information on where to find a fresh Christmas tree this coming holiday season, go to and then click on your county to find a grower near you.

1 comment:

  1. These trees are closest to our house and gift shop. They are 3 yrs. old and there are approximately 1000 White Pines. Fast Growing Tree Nursery