Virginia is a leader in Christmas tree growth
BLACKSBURG, Va. — The Virginia Christmas tree industry is a leader across the nation, David L. Goerlich, associate director of Virginia Cooperative Extension, told members of the Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association during the group’s annual convention.
During its awards lunch, Goerlich reminded growers that the state ranks seventh nationally in Christmas tree production and outlined the positive effects the industry has on numerous sectors of the economy and environment.
He added as demands for Christmas trees change with generations, growers have a new marketing opportunity.
Goerlich shared his memories of going after Christmas trees on his family farm in upstate New York.
By the time he went tree hunting, the trees planted to supply the family by his grandfather had grown so tall they had to climb and cut the top off the trees to get one that would fit inside a house.
This is not a good idea, he noted.
These experiences led him to a love for forests and eventually a career in forestry where he had opportunities to work with Christmas trees and the people who grow them as an Extension forestry specialist in several states.
“The experience you allow people to have, to come to your farms is something special,” he told them.
Christmas tree farms help drive the state’s agritourism efforts while contributing to clean air and water, he continued.
In recent years, tree buying habits have been changing and this is where Goerlich sees a marketing opportunity, Goerlich said.
There have been moves toward artificial trees by older folks but an uptick in buying real Christmas trees by younger and urban people.
The pandemic may have aided this trend when families found tree farms as a way to get outside and interact with people safely.
The three-day convention at the Alphine-Stuart Arena on the Virginia Tech campus Aug.4-6 attracted about 50 growers as well as support agencies and vendors.
Participants packed a lot into the three days, as they shared experiences one-on-one and in formal presentations that covered topics about newcomers to the industry, grant opportunities, nursery stock, labor, insurance and equipment.
Once again, North Carolinas’ Tommy Naylor brought his popular wreath-making workshop to the first day. This activity offers growers a way to add value to their greenery.
The convention ended on Saturday with a tour of Joe’s Trees, a third-generation Christmas tree and pumpkin farm in the foothills of the Allegany Mountains in Craig County.