Whether you cut down your own or buy a pre-cut tree, years of work goes into making sure you get the best possible Christmas tree.
“Right now (August) we are in the middle of tree shearing and since we have transitioned to a lot of fir trees, we are shearing a lot,” said Joel Berry, owner of Twinsberry Tree Farm in Shreve.
Berry, along with his son Scott and brother Jack, remove extra growth on the trees to shape them into the cone shape that most want in their Christmas trees, but this is no easy task. Berry used to shear trees with just a knife in his twenties and thirties.
“I had to go to rotary wands (a gas powered pruner); it’s easier on your body,” he said.
Shearing is just one of the many tasks that takes place on a Christmas tree farm outside of the winter holiday season. After Christmas, new trees are ordered and preparations are made for planting.
Twinsberry Tree Farm offers pesticide-free Christmas trees that are pre-cut, cut your own, and balled and burlap. Its Christmas tree selection includes classic pines and spruces as well as a large selection of firs.
In late March or early April, 2,000-3,000 trees are planted at Twinsberry, and while some will be planted using machines, Berry says 90 percent of the trees are planted by hand. It can take six to eight years for a Christmas tree to mature.
Berry is the third generation and his son the fourth on the family farm, purchased in the mid 1930s and transitioned to Christmas trees in the 1970s.
Having had mostly spruces and pines early on, the farm adapted to what its customers wanted, switching to more firs in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The farm still has a variety of other types of trees, which is an integral part to Twinsberry’s success. The farm uses a system of growing to help prevent pests and diseases.
“I figured out that it was to our advantage to raise our fields in multiple species at uneven ages. That way if I have a particular insect or disease that impacts a particular species of tree or age of tree, it doesn’t wipe us out,” Berry said. “I’ve been doing this for about 20 years now and it seems to work quite well.”
Another Christmas tree farm chore that has to be done spring through fall is mowing the grass around the trees. All 40 acres planted with trees must be mowed at least five times from May through the end of September, which was a challenge early this year with the unusually high rainfall.
Christmas season and the rest of the year on a tree farm are very different, but to Christmas tree growers it is all exciting.
“The harvesting of the trees, bringing people into the fields and seeing children laugh and smile and throw snowballs at each other—that is the fun part,” Berry said. “But I love planting, mowing and shearing—all of it. I think I’m not alone. If Christmas tree growers didn’t like all of it, we wouldn’t have growers.”
To learn more about Christmas trees and find tree farms near you, visit the Ohio Christmas Tree Association website.
Tips for Christmas Tree selection and care
Here are a few of the National Christmas Tree Association’s tips for selecting and caring for Christmas trees.
Measure your space: Know what size, height and width you need before heading out to select your tree. Most tree farms trim their trees to an 80 percent taper, which means a 10-foot-tall tree will be 8 feet wide at the bottom. Trees will look small outside when not enclosed in a room.
Research tree species: Some tree species have more open foliage, stiffer branches or longer needles. Research the characteristics of the different species and choose a species that fits your wants and needs best.
Do a branch/needle test for freshness: Run a branch through your enclosed hand—the needles should not come off easily. Bend the outer branches—they should be pliable. If they are brittle and snap easily, the tree is too dry.
- Displaying trees in a reservoir type stand is the best way to maintain freshness and minimize needle loss problems.
- Make a fresh cut at the base of the trunk before putting the tree in the stand. If you cut the tree yourself and put it up the same day, you will not need to make a fresh cut. If you purchase a pre-cut tree at a tree farm, ask for a fresh cut. Don’t cut the trunk at an angle. This makes it difficult to hold the tree in the stand and also reduces the amount of water available to it.
- Once home, place the tree in water as soon as possible. When a tree is cut, more than half of its weight is water. Maintaining tree quality involves keeping the water content up as much as possible.
- Keep trees away from sources of heat such as fireplaces, heaters, heat vents and direct sunlight. Lower room temperatures will slow the drying process, requiring less water per day.
Operation Evergreen started in 1995 as a service project of the Ohio Christmas Tree Association. Real, fresh cut Christmas trees are shipped to military personnel serving overseas.
All the trees are donated by Ohio Christmas Tree Association members, including Twinsberry Tree Farm, which has been involved since the first year, and the Berrys also donate the use of their tree baler and boxing unit for the project.
It costs about $160 per tree to ship the tree overseas, requiring between $14,000 and $16,000 in donations to cover shipping costs.
Along with trees, the project also sends ornaments and decorations that schools, civic groups, churches and others in the community help make and assemble.
The project started with about 29 trees sent in the first year, and the highest number of trees sent so far is 315. Shipping usually takes place around Veterans Day.
Published in the November/December 2015 Our Ohio magazine. Stay connected with and support great food and farm stories like this by becoming an Our Ohio Supporter. For just $25 you can stay connected with Ohio food and farm stories while supporting local foods and community outreach.