When it comes to cutting your own Christmas tree, pickiness pays

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There are thousands of Christmas tree growers in Virginia, with more than 7 million trees growing in the state.

With that many trees, how do you ensure you’re getting the best quality?

According to the Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association, visiting a choose-and-cut farm and selecting your own tree is the best way to assure freshness. 

The association recommends that as soon as you get your tree home you make a fresh, straight ¼-inch cut across the base of the trunk and place the tree in a bucket of water. It also suggests using a tree stand that will hold a gallon or more of water.

“A fresh tree may take up 3 or more quarts of water a day for the first few days after it is placed in water,” shared VCTGA President Jeff Gregson. He grows a variety of Christmas trees at Bees and Trees Farm, a Culpeper County choose-and-cut operation.

If you’re thinking about cutting a fresh tree this year, don’t wait too long. Demand for fresh Christmas trees has gone up.

Dave Thomas, VCTGA vice president, has been growing and selling Christmas trees for about 30 years at Valley Star Farm, a Page County choose-and-cut operation. During that time, he said sales have steadily increased. 

“Tree supplies were abundant two or three years ago. I’ve been hearing recently that farms are low on supply, but we have seen a steady increase in the number of trees we sell,” Thomas remarked.

New Christmas trees are planted each year to replace those that have been cut. Virginia-grown trees are a renewable resource.

Thomas, who says his best seller is the concolor fir, will debut a new variety for cutting this year, the Canaan fir. Planted about 10 years ago, the trees have reached 7 to 8 feet in height and are the same kind of tree presented to Virginia first lady Dorothy McAuliffe last year by the VCTGA to decorate the Executive Mansion. 

“People will enjoy the Canaan fir,” Thomas said. “It has nice soft needles and branches heavy enough to hold ornaments well.” 

Virginia is a prime location for Christmas tree farming for two primary reasons, noted Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. First, growing conditions—including climate and geography—are conducive to raising a variety of tree species across the state. Secondly, Virginia farms are located within a day’s drive of two-thirds of U.S. consumers.  

    “Virginia production has expanded over the past decade or more among both wholesale Christmas tree farms and retail choose-and-cut farms. Increasing populations in Virginia and the East Coast, along with consumer demand for locally grown products, are contributing to the added production. But it’s a long process, generally taking seven or more years to raise most trees to a marketable size,” Banks pointed out.

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