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Virginia-sourced Christmas trees fill emergency demand for urban retailer

Virginia-sourced Christmas trees fill emergency demand for urban retailer

RICHMOND—Talk about last minute.

Tom Leonard of Tom Leonard's Farmer's Market in Henrico County was notified in October that his Canadian supplier of Christmas trees could not fulfill the market’s annual 5,000-plus tree order. So with a fast-approaching Christmas kickoff, Leonard reached out to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for help.

“The VDACS marketing team often receives calls for assistance, but the Tom Leonard’s call was unique due to its urgency and size,” said Rob Davenport, VDACS director of marketing and development. “Wholesale Christmas trees are usually pre-sold by the end of summer. Fortunately, Virginia is home to Bottomley Farms in Grayson County, which has over 6,000 acres of trees and has grown into one of the largest shippers and suppliers of Christmas trees in the U.S.”

Like most retailers, Leonard’s market places Christmas tree orders a year in advance.

“Everybody wants those 7-to-8-foot trees,” Leonard said. “So, we knew we had a problem. It’s very difficult to replace so many trees in October. I might say it’s almost impossible, because they’re all sold out already.”

Leonard remembered hearing the governor promote Virginia-grown commodities, and his store has a “local” atmosphere, so he asked about sources closer to home. The VDACS team helped secure 5,000 excess Christmas trees from Bottomley.

“We saved so much on transportation that we were able to keep the price the same as last year,” Leonard said. “We’re very happy. Customers loved the quality and how fresh they are! Bottomley and VDACS saved our neck.”

His trees sold out, and Leonard said his market will source Virginia trees from now on. He also joined the Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association.

“We’re going to expand operations next year and make our Christmas shop even bigger,” he said.

Bottomley cuts around 600,000 trees annually, said Carlos Taylor, Bottomley’s Christmas tree manager.

Trees go to Texas, parts of New Jersey and New York, Ohio, part of Florida and down to Puerto Rico. Now the farm will add Short Pump to the list.

“It was short notice,” Taylor said. “But we worked it out. We hope to continue doing business with them in the future.”

Agriculture and forestry businesses are eager to help meet the needs of consumers and national and international buyers, Davenport said.

“This is a very good example of the state working with famers to fill a need and encourage local purchases of Virginia-grown products,” added Ben Rowe, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation field services director.

Virginia Christmas tree sales top $10 million annually, and the state is ranked seventh nationwide for harvest and production.

Media: Contact Michael Wallace, VDACS communications director, at 804-786-1904, Leonard at 804-283-2268, Taylor at 276-768-9001 or Rowe at 804-290-1017.