Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Trees For Profit???

Friday, December 26, 2008

A cold, still morning here on the mountain. The stars are sparse compared to a week ago and yet it's bright for 4:30 in the morning. Karl the Wonder Dog heard me stirring the fire and came out to try to coax me for a quick walk so he could get back to bed. Christmas Day with food and friends and different smells tired him out and he obviously wants to sleep in some more. That's fine for him but I am too much of a morning person and I have lots to do before I sleep again.

Writing and just having blogs is a fun way to garden when the snow depth exceeds three feet like it is here. I am always amazed the number of people who write to me as a result of what I write and I guess I'm more amazed at how many people prefer to write directly instead of responding to the blog itself. I care not, for correspondence from any direction is fine. Of late there has been lots of news from Europe and that is very interesting. Some time ago I had a computer crash and lost some addresses including one from Marek in Poland. He found me again a couple weeks ago and it like finding a long lost friend even though we barely know each other yet. He raises cannas and has a site that's quite interesting.

To my last post here, Don, a retired physician from eastern Iowa wrote and questioned profitability in growing Christmas trees. Don writes An Iowa Garden and has shared links with me for two-three years now. I enjoy his thoughts as he grows many of the same things I enjoy.

Many of us purchase a Christmas tree every year, some raise their trees, and some only buy a live tree which they plant when spring arrives. When I was a kid there was slim to nothing under the tree most years but the tree was always large and well adorned with many antique, hand blown glass ornaments from England and Germany that were passed down from great great grand parents and their families. Our tree was always something my Dad would find in the woods and I was always required to go on the "hunt". I sure got to see some acts of ........I sure got a chance to see some interesting behaviors over the years. Once we returned home and Dad didn't think he cut a tree with enough branches so he got out a bit and brace and drilled holes and added more branches. I saw this same performance recently on one of the home and garden channels and it reinforced my thought that someone should break out the Stanford-Binet intelligence tests again and try to find out what's going on. Another time the only apparent tree was really the top of a giant fir balsam. It looked fine at 60 feet but once on the ground it was a little lean. Once home it was turned around so many times in the tree stand to find "the good side" that it left a mark in the wooden plank floor.

Gail asks me time and again when I will begin to prune some of the bazillion balsams we have growing here. I think the price this year has pushed me far enough in that direction. Her Dad had a twenty acre piece logged off in 1992 and now it is coming back strong with lots of balsams. I think a planned pruning program over the next few years will get us out of buying each year.

But back to Don's question about profitability. First, let me be really generic with the answer. Farmers do not get rich. Most wealthy farmers were wealthy before they started to farm whether they raise Christmas trees or cows or porkers or trout. Flower farmers like us are even worse because we are more at odds with the weather. As for Christmas trees, you have to be forgetful to grow them. When you make a sale you have to put the money in your pocket and completely forget the previous ten years. That time started with initial planting and then there were annual prunings, fertilizer application, fungicide/insecticide worries, grass mowing, and deer control problems. The errant tree thief doesn't even register on this scale. Just look at your tree for a minute and ask how long would it take to trim and shape it each year? How much did you pay for it? Makes no sense does it? Next time you buy a tree from a grower, remember to give a nice "thank you".

Now how about buying a tree from a retailer? My son Adam lives in Seattle and now, with a house and kids, he is into Christmas trees. This year's story is no better than the last one I heard. Last year he found a place that was recommended, bought a tree, brought it home and looked at the truck bed which by then was covered with needles. Oh boy!! The day after the tree was in the stand the needles were on the floor and the cats were having a field day scooting stuff around. This year he got a step smarter. He picked up the tree and kind of half bounced it off the ground to see how much fell off first. The report is it's about 50% better than last year. No one has shared any pictures so I can't confirm how the learning process is really going. I relayed that I heard there were some very nice tree farms down towards Olympia so maybe just maybe next year.........??

So to answer Don in Iowa, no Don, there is no profitability in trees unless you take them to a city yourself or you are the middleman.

I'm not cutting trees but I do have lots to do here today. Have to get going. Sunrise is bright red and that's just a reminder of the rain that is headed this way for the next two days. Hope you are having a great holiday season, with or without a tree.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Gardens
Vermont Flower Farm

Website rebuild update: I keep saying I am updating our site. I am rebuilding it all. The old site is still here and works well but will be replaced soon. I've completed the rewrites on astilbes and daylilies and started the hostas last night. Nothing too difficult but it sure takes time. Bear with me!


tina said...

Very interesting on the Christmas trees. I have agree with you on the farmers too.

George Africa said...

Hi Tina;

There are some things about farming I don't understand. This whole government subsidy thing sounds wrong to me. It's probably great for some and something to abuse for others. I just don't know. Obviously there are a lot of starving people in the world and some of that could be different than it is.

With a polluted food chain worldwide and with the fresh water supply at 3% of total earth water and much of that polluted, we have to take a global look at these important issues.

I always believe in supporting local. In Vermont after WWII there were 12,000 farms. Now there are under 1000. What is left need to be well managed on all levels. I for one, never complain about the price of milk and I understand what it takes to get a pound of spinach or a bouquet of flowers to the table. Guess we need to be sure we do a good job communicating this to our kids.


Susan Tomlinson said...

Hi George--I do enjoy your blog, so please keep writing.

I sometimes try to pick your posts in blotanical, but for some reason, it doesn't work. Have you contacted Stuart about it?

George Africa said...

Hello Susan;

I am happy you are enjoying The Vermont Gardener. Yes, I did contact Stuart when you last mentioned some problems and I followed through with his advice. I have received very few picks but it appears to be working as recently as yesterday. I'm doing a major overhaul on our website right now so I'm taking things one at a time.

Beginning to rain here in Vermont and has just reached 32 degrees. The ground is very cold so ice will prevail.

Best seasons wishes,

# 29/10/08 View list of Pickers - First Snow - 6 Picks
# 18/11/08 View list of Pickers - Floating Snow Flakes - 4 Picks
# 12/11/08 View list of Pickers - Looking Back - 3 Picks
# 22/11/08 View list of Pickers - Hosta Vision - 3 Picks
# 15/10/08 View list of Pickers - Blog Action Day: Poverty 2008 - 2 Picks
# 25/10/08 View list of Pickers - Shade Garden Construction Continues - 2 Picks
# 20/10/08 View list of Pickers - October Skies - 1 Picks
# 21/10/08 View list of Pickers - Making New Beds - 1 Picks
# 26/10/08 View list of Pickers - Drying Hydrangeas - 1 Picks
# 31/10/08 View list of Pickers - Japanese Beetles - 1 Picks
# 02/11/08 View list of Pickers - Winter and Winterberry - 1 Picks
# 15/11/08 View list of Pickers - Heartwood Time - 1 Picks
# 26/12/08 View list of Pickers - Winter Work - 1 Picks

tina said...

The picks did NOT work for me on your site yesterday George. I tried several times on your Tree Profit post. There was also one other blog the picks were not working. It said there was an SQL error. This may be why there are not so many picks.