Christmas Tree Production Can Be Rewarding but Challenging

Web AdminAlabama, Christmas trees

By Clint Thompson

Christmas tree production is a venture growing with popularity in Alabama. It provides great potential for retirees and is sure to attract customers looking to partake in the family experience every year.

But aspiring producers need to understand the time, energy and work involved in ensuring trees are ready in the fall.

Jeremy Pickens, Alabama assistant Extension professor in horticulture at Auburn University, discusses the work involved in Christmas tree production.

“You’ve got to prune three times a year. You’re spraying once a month. It’s more intensive but it is a nice enterprise for a small farm,” Pickens said.

Leyland cypress is the primary tree grown in Alabama, but it is susceptible to a blight disease, which growers have to protect against.

“It’s a disease that can get out of hand quick, depending on the time of year and what not. They just spray to prevent that from happening,” Pickens said.

Labor needs remain the biggest obstacle for potential farmers. This is especially true since there could be as many as 750 trees that comprise an acre.

“They’re not hiring in a lot of labor, it’s their own labor. There’s a big opportunity costs with that time if you’re doing it on the side. You could be doing a number of other things on your farm,” Pickens said. “Trying to reduce the labor need, that’s probably the biggest challenge. The labor need comes with the pruning, herbicide spray and weed control.

“I think growers are looking at more specialized equipment or they’re making it themselves. For example, instead of using a spray gun to apply your fungicides, there’s some guys getting small airblast sprayers where they can do it in two hours compared to two days.”

The agritourism component of Christmas tree farms provides those interested a financial incentive to produce their own trees. Producers invite families during the fall and early wintertime for their annual pilgrimage to find the perfect tree.