VCTGA News Journal Winter'12

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News Journal for Virginia Grown Christmas Trees Published by the Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association Volume1,2,Issue Issue 31 Volume

Winter 2012 Fall 2011

Issue: InsideInside this this Issue:

A Capitol Christmas − 2 VCTGA Board- −23 Marketing Materials Presidentially Speaking − 4 Order Form - 3 ‘Angry Mob’ Derails VCTGA Board - 4 Promotion Program − 5 Presidentially Speaking - 5 NCTA Position on Steps forTree Change - 5− 5 Checkoff VCTGA Good Things 6 −6 Grant Progress Report Neel Receives Awards -6 Member Profile: Minutes Tall Highlights 88 Tree Farm- − Can Recipient the Family Farm Scholarship -9 Survive? − 12 Sponsor Thanks! - 9 Marketing Meeting Five Survey -9 “Quick Fixes” − 12 Memories - Fred Wagoner - 10 Websites #1 Marketing Virginia Farming 14 − 14 Becoming a Fan Christmas Tree Month - 14 of Facebook − 15 Mt. Rogers Shearing Seed Orchard - 15 Techniques Improve Farm - 15 forMarketing Fraser Fir − 17 Becoming a “Fan” 17 VA Farming Changes − 20 Good/Bad Tree? - 18 − 20 VAC New Website National Updates 20 − 22 Virginia in Top- 10! License − 22, 23 Trees4TREES For Troops - 22 Trees“TIP” For Troops What’s - 26− 22, 23 First Tree Cutting Contest Winners - 27− 23 Real Tree Promotions − 23

Advertisers Advertisers Kelco - 7 StrathmeyerBosch’s Forests− -6 9 Christmas Tree Teck - 11Hill − 7 Tree Teck − 7 Christmas Hill - 11 Cherokee Mfg. − 9 Riverside Alpha Enterprises - 11 Nursery − 11 Alpha Nursery - 13− 13 Tim Mitchell Bosch’s Countryview Nursery Riverside Enterprises − 15 - 16 Kelco − 15 TimFlickinger’s Mitchell Nursery - 21 − 21 Ad - Fraser Cherokee Mfg Knoll - 25 − 24 Fraser Knoll - 28

Governor Bob McDonnell accepts the official state Christmas tree from Virginia and John Carroll on December 12 at the front of the governor’s mansion. The Carroll’s were the winners of the VCTGA Christmas Tree Contest at the VCTGA Annual Meeting in August and earned the honor of presenting the official tree this year. Jocelyn Lampert also presented the official wreaths and Bill and Mary Apperson presented holly and evergreens for decorations. (Additional photos next page). (Photos Courtesy of Michaele White, Governor’s Photography)

Experience a Real Tree!

VCTGA VCTGA News Journal Winter–2012 News –Journal Winter 2012



Scenes from the Christmas Presentation at the Governor’s Mansion Governor McDonnell Accepts Executive Mansion Tree, Wreaths & Greenery from Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association Members

Contributing and Coordinating Editors Membership Jocelyn Lampert Technical Support & Production John Carroll & Kyle Peer Mount Rogers Report Charlie Connor

Joe and Jocelyn Lampert, Crazy Joe’s Christmas Tree Farm, Elkwood, present the official Mansion Wreath to Governor McDonnell.

Pathology & Disease Norman Dart Pests Eric Day VDACS Support & Updates Danny Neel Dave Robishaw Marketing, Promotion, & Social Media Sue Bostic Grant Updates Sue Bostic, Greg Lemmer

Mary and Bill Apperson presenting Governor McDonnell with holly and greens for decorations.

Editor in Chief - Jeff Miller Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association Inc. 383 Coal Hollow Rd. Christiansburg, VA 24073-6721 PH: 540-382-7310 Fax: 540-382-2716 secretary@Virginia

Pictured here (L to R): Jocelyn and Joe Lampert, Virginia and John Carroll, Matt Lohr, VDACS Commissioner, Governor McDonnell; Tyler Carroll, Charley-Gail and Matt Carroll, Mary and Bill Apperson. (All Photos Courtesy of Michaele White, Governor’s Photographer)

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VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

VCTGA Officers Boardof of Directors Directors 2012 VCTGA Officers &&Board 2012 Officers Virginia Chisholm Carroll, President 207 Fairway Drive, Louisa, VA 23093-6522 (H) 540-967-1076 home 540-872-3817 Farm 540-872-8027 Cell Tim Williams, Past President Spruce Rock Farm 1104 Morningwood Ln Great Falls VA 22066 Phone: 540.543.2253 Greg Lemmer, Vice President Boy’s Home Christmas Tree Farm 306 Boy’s Home Rd Covington VA 24426-5518 PH: 540-965-7700 Fax: 540-965-7702 Jeff Miller, Secretary/Treasurer VCTGA Newsletter Editor Horticulture Management Associates LLC 383 Coal Hollow Rd Christiansburg VA 24073-6721 540-382-7310 (Office) 540-382-2716 (fax) 540-250-6264 cell 540-382-7575 Home

Horticulture Management Associates LLC

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

Directors Derick Proctor, Director 1 yr. Pott’s Creek Tree Farm 5923 Old Cheney Hwy Orlando FL 32807-3639 321-217-3170 Charlie Conner, Director 1 yr. 970 Snider Branch Rd. Marion, VA 24354 home 276-783-7732 Cell 276-685-2392 Robert O’Keeffe, Director 1-yr. Scholarships Rifton Farm & Nursery 240 Rifton Lane Pilot, Va. 24138 Home 540-651-8440 Cell 540-580-3528 ---------------------------------------Jocelyn Lampert, Director 2 yr. Crazy Joe’s Christmas Tree Farm 18028 Carrico Mills Road Elkwood VA 22718 Home: 540-423-9020 Dave Thomas, Director 2 yr. Valley Star Farms 390 Almond Drive Luray VA 22835 Home: 540-860-8040 Donna O’Halloran, Director 2 yr. Glengary Christmas Tree Farm PO Box 503 Rixeyville, VA 22737-0503 540-937-2335 (Nov-Dec) 540-937-3021 Home 540-937-7529 fax

Ex-officio Directors Sue Bostic, Grants Director 5110 Cumberland Gap Rd Newport VA 24128 540-544-7303 Fred Shorey, Ex-officio Dir. 1 yr. Tall Tree Farm 154 Way Station LN Kents Store, VA 23084-2126 804-305-6760 Home/cell Sherrie Taylor, National Director Severt’s Tree Farm 500 Comers Rock Rd Elk Creek VA 24326-2551 276-655-3969 Office 276-982-3819 fax Danny Neel, Industry Advisors VDACS, Marketing Specialist 250 Cassell Rd Wytheville VA 24382-3317 Phone: 276-228-5501 Cell: 804-477-4113 Fax: 276-228-6579 David Robishaw, Industry Advisor VDACS, Marketing 900 Natural Resources Dr Ste 300 Charlottesville, VA 22903 434-984-0573 phone 434-984-4156 fax 804-357-3014 Kyle Peer, Industry Advisor VA Tech Dept of Forestry PO Box 70, Critz VA 24082-0070 Phone: 276-694-4135

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Presidentially Speaking… From the President Big Buzz…Big Season… Big Challenges….. As I am writing this we have just finished one of the better Christmas tree sales season in recent memory for our family farm business. Wonderful weather, a media buzz about real trees and the buy fresh- buy local movement have, without a doubt, contributed to a strong “on the farm” sales season in 2011. I hope all of you had the same type of results with your businesses whether it is a wholesale operation, retail lot, or choose and cut farm. I can’t remember a year that had so much positive media attention; whether it was NPR promoting the “green” virtues of real trees, Trees for Troops reaching its 100,000 tree goal, the Governor showing up for the Executive Mansion tree and wreath presentations, or The Washington Post’s story about the journey of a Christmas tree that started out in the Mount Rogers Fraser Seed Orchard. This all capped off a good year for our association with a growing, active membership, an energetic board, excellent dedicated staff, stellar support from our partner agencies, and financial support from some timely grant initiatives. Much has been accomplished and yet there is still plenty to be done to promote real trees during the coming year. 2012 promises to be a challenging year for our industry as we deal with some leftover issues like the stalled Check Off program and the need for more promotional dollars to capitalize on the revitalized interest in real trees. I am constantly reminded how much this business has changed over the years and how consumers have asserted themselves to demand fresh high quality products no matter where or when their tree is pur4

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chased. It’s no secret that “on the farm” sales have grown significantly over the past few years and the 2011 consumer poll is likely to show it is the point of sale with the largest market share. What does this mean for our industry as a whole and are we prepared to meet the challenge of supplying trees as the trend continues? At first glance, it may appear that we are not prepared to meet the challenge with a dwindling number of choose and cut farms that are expected to have a greater share of the real tree market. Several choose and cut farms already supplement their inventory and species selection by purchasing Fraser fir from wholesale growers. This has certainly helped increase the numbers of trees available on choose and cut farms. With a limited ability to grow trees that are preferred by a majority of the consumers, this certainly makes sense and has helped both choose and cut farms and the wholesale growers. Not everyone can or will travel to a farm to purchase a real tree and this presents an opportunity where we can all work together for the good of expanding the real tree market. There is an opportunity for VCTGA and the industry to revitalize the concept of selecting a real tree at a nursery, garden center, grocery store, or from even their local civic club. In essence, the farm will have to come to them, so to speak, promoting the concept of not just a tree lot………..but a real farm market! It works in Northern Virginia and it can work in just about any location where the buying public wants a fresh high quality product that is produced locally or regionally and is displayed tastefully. I don’t think we have to worry that doing this will be the demise of choose and cut farms at all. It should strengthen the industry as a whole and preserve the

tradition of using a real tree for years to come. Whatever the case, we have to continue to nurture and educate our consumers. In closing, there are some great initiatives planned for our association this year starting with attendance at MANTS in Baltimore and the Ruritan National convention in Raleigh, both in January. Our Board will be meeting early in the year and discussing the business of the association along with determining the direction for the additional grant marketing funds. Our annual VCTGA 2012 meeting is scheduled to be in Waynesboro on August 23-25. We’re in the beginning stages of program planning now. If you have a suggestion on the program please contact John Carroll with ideas. We’re already working on some great “How to” sessions.

Virginia Chisholm Carroll, VCTGA President

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

Angry Mob"Derails " Christmas Tree Promotion Program The Obama administration has done an about-face on a new industrysupported promotion program. Last week’s Newsbrief reported on the long-awaited establishment of the Christmas Tree Promotion, Research and Information program, a partnership between the fresh Christmas tree industry and USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). The industry-driven program, years in the making, was intended to address lagging sales and changing consumer demographics in the real tree industry. Its structure, scope, and industry buy-in were shaped by a national Christmas tree industry task force. The program was formally proposed late in 2010 by USDAAMS for two public comment periods, and was finalized on November 8, 2011.

as “President Obama taxing your Christmas tree.” In the face of a hostile media barrage, USDA announced that the rule would be set aside for an undetermined period of time. Said a frustrated Chris Beytes of Ball Publishing Company, “I guess the media thinks it’s better to buy a plastic tree from China than a real tree from an American grower, who will be forced to sell his farm to a developer and go on welfare to feed his family.” It is unclear if and when the program will be allowed to proceed; certainly, nothing is expected to happen before January, but 2012 election year politics may continue to stymie the effort. Meanwhile, other industries with their own check-off programs, ranging from pork to watermelons, are mobilizing in the face of this new threat: the policy equivalent of an angry mob capable of derailing a sister industry’s own fledgling promotion program.

As finalized, the “Christmas tree check off” program would have levied an assessment of $0.15 per fresh Christmas tree produced, cut and sold by U.S. growers, or imported from Canada, in order to fund industry-driven promotion and research efforts. The program included a small producer exemption, and an exemption for fully organic producers. It enjoyed the broad support of growers and Christmas tree associations.

The National Christmas Tree Association is pleased that the USDA has announced a final rule on the creation of a Christmas Tree Promotion, Research and Information Order, commonly known as a “Checkoff.”

Yet, things went terribly wrong for program proponents. Immediately after the rule was published, the conservative Heritage Foundation and opportunistic lawmakers, including Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), attacked the program as a tax, and the story went viral in even the mainstream media with minimal fact checking. Suddenly, an industrydriven program to shape its own future potential was mischaracterized

This program was requested by the industry in 2009 and has gone through two industry-wide comment periods during which 565 comments were submitted from interested parties. More than 70% of the growers posting comments, and nearly 90% of the state and multi-state associations that posted comments indicated that they were in favor of the program. A group of Christmas Tree farmers and retailers spent nearly

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

Written by Craig Regelbrugge

NCTA Position Statement on New Christmas Tree Checkoff Program

three years studying the potential positives and negatives of a checkoff promotion and research program, including looking at other commodities that have similar programs. The program is designed to benefit the industry and will be funded by the growers at a rate of 15 cents per tree sold. The program will be administered by an independent 12member board of small business owners who grow and sell farmgrown Christmas trees and they will be responsible for developing and approving promotional and research efforts to benefit the entire industry. The program is not expected to have any impact on the final price consumers pay for their Christmas tree. The funds collected after this season will be used to develop promotion and research programs for the 2012 season. This program was developed under the Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996. There are at least 18 other similar programs already in effect for various agricultural commodities. Although smaller in scope, the Christmas tree program will be similar to recognizable programs for milk, cotton and beef that have brought consumers commodity-oriented messages such as “Got Milk?” and “Beef, It’s what’s for dinner.”

About the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) NCTA is the professional organization representing nearly 5,000 farms and retailers engaged in growing and selling Real Christmas Trees to nearly 30 million consumers. Based in Chesterfield, Mo., NCTA's mission is to promote the use of Real Christmas Trees and support the industry that provides them. 636-449-5071office office (central (central time), 636-449-5071 time),

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Progress Report FY 2010 Specialty Crop Grant


Activities Performed -

In the spring, we did a survey of grower members and had about a 20% response from members who were interested in participating in marketing their Virginia grown tree.


The VCTGA contracted with a design/marketing firm, Tom Kegley Communications, to create the marketing ideas and graphics from the VCTGA committee into a cohesive design of a new VCTGA logo, signage, banners, and two marketing brochures (copies attached).



Over 2,500 of the “Experience a Real Tree” brochures have been distributed to 119 locations around the state with the VDACS 2011 Virginia Grown Christmas Tree Guide through the assistance of Leanne Dubois with VDACS marketing in Richmond. In late spring, we contacted civic organizations (potential buyers) via email, mail and personal calls to determine their current and future use of real Christmas trees as fund-raiser projects. They were all invited to the Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association Annual Meeting on August 5, 2011 for a program on working with Virginia growers to promote and market real trees.

presentation of the new VCTGA marketing materials and how buyers and sellers could use these materials to successfully sell more trees. -

VDACS Marketing staff, Danny Neel, has been extremely helpful in helping make contacts and guiding the VCTGA thorough the marketing promotion process.


October 23, VCTGA Director, Greg Lemmer, participated in the Augusta Agritourism Festival in Waynesboro with the new VCTGA displays and distributed both brochures.


The current website has been updated with information on the new marketing materials and a committee is working on a full revision of the website after this year’s selling season. We are soliciting input from members and

At our Annual Meeting, Danny Neel and Charlie Conner (VCTGA director) made a

Ad – Bosch’s

10785 84th Avenue • Allendale, Michigan 49401 Phone: (616) 892-4090 • Fax: (616) 892-4290 Email:

Fall List for Fall 2010 2011 and and Spring Spring 2011 2012 Wholesale Wholesale Price Price List for

Quality Seedlings & Transplants Age


Per 100 Rate

Per 1,000 Rate

Per 100 Rate

Per 1,000 Rate

WHITE SPRUCE - Lake States (2-0, 3-0) 9-15” $40.00 $175.00 (2-1, 2-2) 15-20” $90.00 $595.00 (2-2) 15-24” $110.00 $750.00 (X-LG) 20-30” $250.00 $1,600.00

BALSAM FIR (2-0) (P+1) (P+2)

5-10” 8-14” 10-18”

$40.00 $195.00 $86.00 $575.00 $110.00 $750.00

NORWAY SPRUCE - Lake States (2-0, 3-0) 9-15” $40.00 $175.00 (2-1, 2-2) 15-24” $90.00 $650.00 (X-LG) 20-30” $250.00 $1,600.00

CANAAN FIR (P+1) (P+2)

8-14” 10-18”

$90.00 $115.00

BLACKHILL SPRUCE (2-0) 5-12” (2-1) 8-14” (2-2) 8-15” (2-2) 12-18”

$595.00 $795.00

$40.00 $175.00 $86.00 $575.00

CONCOLOR FIR (2-0) 5-12” $45.00 $225.00 (2-1, P+1) 8-14” $90.00 $595.00 (2-2, P+2) 12-18” $115.00 $795.00 COLORADO BLUE SPRUCE - San Juan & Kiabab (2-0, 3-0) 9-15” $40.00 $175.00 (2-1, 2-2) 10-16” $75.00 $495.00 (2-2, P+2) 10-18” $110.00 $750.00 (X-LG) 15-24” $250.00 $1,600.00

Ad_1_BW.indd 1

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FRASER FIR (3-0) 6-12” $45.00 $225.00 (2-2, PL+2) 8-15” $100.00 $725.00 (3-2, PL+2) 10-18” $110.00 $750.00 (P+3) 12-22” $125.00 $850.00

DOUGLAS FIR - Lincoln (2-0, 3-0) 9-15” (2-1) 12-18”



$40.00 $75.00 $95.00 $110.00

$175.00 $495.00 $695.00 $750.00

SERBIAN SPRUCE (2-0) 8-14” $45.00 $225.00 (2-1, P+1) 8-14” $90.00 $595.00 (2-2, P+2) 12-18” $115.00 $795.00 AUSTRIAN PINE (2-0) 5-12” (1-2) 12-18” RED PINE - Lake States (2-0) 4-8” (2-0, 3-0) 5-12”

$40.00 $175.00 $115.00 $795.00 $35.00 $150.00 $40.00 $175.00



Per 100 Rate

Per 1,000 Rate

WHITE PINE - Lake States (2-0) 4-8” $35.00 $150.00 (2-0, 3-0) 5-12” $40.00 $175.00 (3-0) 8-15” $45.00 $225.00 (2-1) 8-14” $82.00 $550.00 (2-2) 12-18” $110.00 $750.00 (X-LG) 18-24” $250.00 $1,600.00 SCOTCH PINE - Scothighland + French (2-0) 6-12” $35.00 $165.00 (2-0, 3-0) 9-15” $40.00 $175.00 WHITE CEDAR (2-0) (3-0) (2-1) (2-2, P+2)

4-8” $40.00 $195.00 8-15” $45.00 $225.00 8-14” $82.00 $550.00 12-18” $110.00 $750.00

ARBORvITAE - DARK GREEN, TECHNY, EMERALD & GREEN GIANT (RC+1) 6-12” $110.00 (RC+2) 12-18” $140.00

$750.00 $950.00

10-20% Discount on orders over 10,000 plants For complete list please write or call us. Brian Bosch / Owner

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012 7/28/10 12:37 PM

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

potential buyers on the layout and type of information that would be beneficial to have available on the website. -

Members have been sent order forms and lists of marketing materials/photos that are available for their individual marketing for this selling season.

utive director of the National Ruritans and they are interested in the VCTGA making a presentation on marketing trees at the national meeting in February 2012.

Future Project Plans -

Problems and Delays It took a little longer than we’d planned to get the ball rolling due to some issues of hiring a knowledgeable part-time person to do some of our marketing research and find contacts with civic groups and other potential buyers. We were not able to get any civic group representatives to come to Blacksburg in early August, but have several that expressed serious interest. There were other conflicting events and vacations. Danny Neel has arranged a meeting in November with the exec-


Another regional meeting is being planned on for the southwest area of the state in the Wytheville area.


Marketing ads and grower interviews will be on the statewide Virginia Farming Show by Jeff Ishee on WVPT - Educational Television Corp. with input and

Ad – Christmas Hill

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

In May 2012, we are planning a regional educational meeting for buyers and sellers to bring potential buyers and sellers together at a working Christmas tree farm in central Virginia area (Charlottesville/Culpeper/Fredericksb urg area.

interviews by VCTGA members. -

Additional contacts with civic groups and other potential buyers will be an ongoing process.

Funding Expended to Date $11,060 has been used, and reimbursed from the grant) to develop, design, and print marketing materials which have been made available to members. Provided by Jeff Miller, Sect/Treas.

North American Farmers Direct Marketing Association Annual Meeting, February 10-16, 2012, Williamsburg Convention Center Excellent opportunity to attend this premiere farm direct marketing and agritourism conference while it’s right in your backyard!

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The Adventures of Tall Tree Farm OR Will we ever sell a Christmas Tree? Prologue Back in 2005, my wife Morgan and I decided it was time to leave the rat race of Atlanta, GA, and try a slower lifestyle. With family already in VA, what better place to be then near family. We settled in the West End of Richmond for the good schools. Our daughter was a senior in High School and our son was in Middle School. Family was spread out near Wintergreen and in Roanoke so Richmond turned out to be a nice place. Not too close to family, if you know what I mean.

Farmer Fred

Farmer Fred

Discovery. About a year after arriving we thought it would be fun to “checkout” the country west of Richmond with the idea of buying some land as an investment and/or retirement place. Now you have to understand that my wife works in New York City and is only home on the week8

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ends, so visiting farms and looking at land was something I had to plan each weekend. It was not a spur of the moment adventure. I would set up visits with real estate agents every other weekend or so with the clear message that we were only “looking” at this time. One Saturday afternoon we ventured onto 60 acres in eastern Fluvanna County in a little town (I mean so small we don’t even have a traffic light) called Kents Store. Well, that was the last time we ever did a weekend visit to a farm. We drove back to Richmond with very little conversation. Only a few “So, what did you think?” and a few “I liked it. What did you think?” “I liked it too”. And that was that. We “bought the farm” the next week. My wife quickly informed me that I was required to show some sort of income from this “investment”. It didn’t have to be right away, but it had to happen. And she also told me that she always wanted to own a Christmas tree farm. Well, who was I to argue with the boss? We still lived in Richmond at the time so my weekends were spent on the farm cutting pastures, fixing the old farm house, cutting firewood….you know the routine. In the mean time I was researching Christmas tree farms trying to figure out how to get started. And that’s how I found John and Virginia Carroll. Their farm was the closest to our place and they made the mistake of answering the phone when I called. Virginia invited me to come by and see their farm and talk about how to get started. John sat quietly and answered my questions logically and with purpose, while Virginia instilled in me all the wonderful and exciting virtues of growing Christmas trees. Virginia should be a professional recruiter! Well, that was the day I drank the KoolAid.

The Big Leap. Per Virginia’s suggestion and my need to do this tree growing thing right, I joined the VCTGA. At my first summer meeting in 2008 I was dubbed the “newbie”, and still feel like one today. For 2 years I attended the annual VCTGA convention, soaking up as much information and wisdom as I possibly could before deciding if Christmas trees were really the best fit for Tall Tree Farm.

Land Clearing

Cutting Timber

Morgan and I decided some timber had to come out to make room for planting since we loved the existing open pastures and didn’t want to fill them up with Christmas trees. This was to become our first major investment in the land and that proverbial jump off the pier. Out came 12 acres of old timber. No turning back now. This tree growing thing is not as easy as one would think! I knew there were a lot of choices in tree species and from my first VCTGA meeting knew that not all would grow in my area. Certainly Frasier Fir was out of the question (the farm sits a whopping 400 ft above sea level). So I figured this first year of planting would be my test year, and each year after I would fill an acre of that cleared land with seedlings until all 12 acres were planted. By then the first acre would be ready for harvest. My “test” planting included: Canaan Fir (167), Concolor Fir (167), Douglas Fir (167), Colorado Blue Spruce (334), and Scotch Pine (280). I planted in April of 2010

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

(160), and White Spruce (120). As the spring of 2011 came around the trees were looking good. New growth on everything! Then the heat and dry months of June and July crept in. And once again, death and depression covered the tree pasture.

since that seemed to be what was recommended. All trees were 2-2. Seedlings arrived and I rounded up neighbors and friends to help with the planting.

To Dibble or Not To Dibble. First off, I discovered a dibble bar was out of the question. The ground was just too hard even with spring rains (first clue I missed….soil not very good even after soil test, lime and fertilizer). We went with a one man gas auger instead of the dibble and things progressed quickly planting on a 7x7 grid. One day and we had 1,115 seedlings in the ground. Hey, this wasn’t so bad I thought. Now I just sit and wait for them to grow. Wrong! Summer heat, drought, deer and insects took a rapid toll on the seedlings. Depression set in. What to do? “Ok”, I said, “Let’s try again and I’ll change things up with some other species.

Second Thoughts.

And I’ll plant in the fall to avoid the summer heat”. At this point in time (fall of 2010) only the Scotch Pine survived and about a third of the Blue Spruce. Round 2 included more Canaan Fir (140), Nordman Fir

Our Christmas tree business was looking grim. Trees won’t grow (except the Scotch Pine) and I’m becoming the only available labor when it’s planting, spraying and pruning time. Maybe I need to rethink this whole “tree farm” thing. But my wife seemed to have the solution (for the moment). Morgan says, “Retire, and take care of the farm and family. Your time would be better spent this way.” Again, who am I to argue with the boss, so I retire and switch from polo shirts to coveralls. At this point I assumed giving most of my time to the farm

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VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

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would mean certain success. Yea, right. Time to try another spring planting. This time I figure I can’t fail. If the Scotch Pine will grow then White Pine must be able to grow. Spring of 2011, here we go again. Oh, and I switch from the handheld gas auger to a PTO powered auger on the farm tractor (this I like!). Sure enough, a majority of the White Pine survives the hot summer and things are looking up. However, the remaining Canaan Fir, White Spruce and Nordman Fir planted last fall turn brown and die. Things are looking down. I give up! I now find myself dreaming of bush hogging all the remaining trees and putting some cows on the land. Morgan encourages me to press on and reminds me that other than her long desire to have a Christmas tree farm, our other reason for trees was so we could travel once in a while without having to worry about who was going to feed the trees. Made sense to me.

To The Rescue. With hat in hand, armed with photos and videos of my tree devastation, I make my way to Blacksburg for the 2011 summer convention. This time I plan on cornering Kyle Peer and anyone else who will listen to plead my case. I’ll do a show and tell of my planting process and see if any red flags come up. There certainly has to be something that I’m doing wrong in order for my success rate to be so low, right? I auger deep holes, supplement the clay with a small amount of composted horse manure for drainage, keep the roots deep and straight down, pack the soil well for good root coverage and give it a shot of water. What could be wrong with that? Kyle was great. He listened intently as I went through everything, showed photos and videos, asked questions and pleaded with him for an answer to my failure as a tree farmer. Alas, no major issues were 10

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uncovered. Kyle gave me some helpful suggestions (add a little lime to the composted manure to lower the ph) and a few pointers backed by his great enthusiasm to keep at it and try again. You see, this is what’s so great about the VCTGA. I was ready to quit this whole tree thing. But after meeting with Kyle, talking to other members, meeting with the vendors, spending 3 days with successful tree farmers and other agricultural folks, I came back to Tall Tree Farm with a renewed sense of my efforts and renewed enthusiasm for Christmas tree farming. And, I came back as a new member of the Board of Directors. What? I kill trees and haven’t been able to even grow a tree to the point of harvest (and I’m still at least 6-7 years away from that) and these people want me on the board? Now who’s drinking the Kool-Aid! Back to the farm after the meeting determined to give it ONE MORE TRY. So I order 160 Murray Cypress (thanks Sarah and Bill). Order 250 more Blue Spruce from Bosch’s Nursery and start my fall planting (Tim, thanks for your continued support of the VCTGA). Everyone says the Cypress will grow fine, and I figure since about half of the Blue Spruce survived my first spring planting in 2010 that I have a chance with some more in a fall planting. If the Blue Spruce survive, my next step is to try Norway Spruce in the fall of 2012. And if those survive then I feel confident I can make this work. It would mean I can sell White Pine, Scotch Pine, Blue Spruce, Norway Spruce and Murray Cypress as a choose and cut farm. To me, that’s not a bad mix to offer with some precut Frasier Fir thrown in.

Farmer Fred.

In the end, I have to be honest with myself about all of this effort and labor. If the Cypress and Spruce don’t survive the summer of 2012 I’m going to have to switch careers. Tall Tree Farm could be anything I want it to be. I have the support of my wife and family to try whatever I want and to be as adventurous as our pocket book will allow. You see, this is our first venture into farming. I’m just a city boy who now finds himself to be a farmer (loosely speaking). This is all new to us and we love it. We wanted a new adventure away from the rat race of the city and we have found it. And as “newbie’s” we could not have found a better place to start then the VCTGA. Your support and encouragement has been astounding. What better place could I be then with all of you as I try to start a Christmas tree farm. So my next adventure is figure out how to prune the surviving trees that currently don’t look at all like a Christmas tree. Any pruning teachers out there?

By Fred Shorey

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

ALPHA NURSERIES, INC 3737 –65TH ST. HOLLAND, MI 49423 Phone: 269 - 857-7804 Fax: 269 857-8162 Email:

Fall 2011Spring 2012

Find us on the web at:

Spruce Species

Size Age

Per Per 100 1000

Colorado Bl. Spruce

9-15" 10-18" 14-20" 18-24"

2-0 2-1 2-2 2-2

$38 $86 $122 $152

$200 $535 $765 $950

10-18" 14-20"

2-0 2-2

$38 $105

$200 $660





Picea pungens 'glauca'

Kaibab, San Juan Misty Blue * * - Add $75/1000

White Spruce Picea glauca

Lake States

Norway Spruce Picea abies

Black Hills Spruce Picea glauca 'densata'

Serbian Spruce Picea omorika

Abies fraseri

Roan Mountain

Balsam Fir Abies balsamea

Nova Scotia

Concolor Fir





10-16" 14-18"

2-2 2-1

$88 $85

$550 $530





















8-12" 12-18" 18-30"

P+2 P+3 P+3

$102 $124 $144

$640 $775 $900

6-12" 8-12"

P+1 P+2

$94 $104

$590 $650





8-14" 10-16"

P+1 P+2

$110 $124

$685 $775

10-18" Pseudotsuga menziesii glauca 12-16" Lincoln, Deep Mount., 20-30" Shuswap Lake

2-0 2-1 2-2

$37 $84 $124

$195 $525 $775

7-12" 12-20"

P+2 P+3

$112 $144

$700 $900

West Virginia

Abies koreana

$43 $225 $112 $700 $160 $1,000

Lake States

Red Pine

2-0 2-2 2-2









Austrian Pine

8-12" 8-14"

2-0 2-1

$37 $88

$195 $550

Scotch Pine

6-10" 10-18"

2-0 2-0

$27 $36

$140 $190

Pinus resinosa

Lake States

Pinus sylvestris

Scots Highland, Guadarrama, French Riga, Macedoina

Southwest. Wh Pine





Ponderosa Pine

6-9" 5-10"

2-0 2-1

$45 $84

$235 $525

18-30" 30-42"

2-0 2-0

$98 $128

$610 $800

American Larch Larix laricina


Canadian Hemlock Tsuga canadensis


White Cedar










4-8" 2-0 8-15" 2-0, 3-0

$34 $46

$180 $240





Write today for complete price list! Note: Other evergreen species available. In addition, we grow 200 species of broadleaves.

Douglas Fir: Korean Fir:

8-12" 12-18" 16-24"

Pinus strobus

Thuja occidentalis

$220 $550 $775

Abies balsamea var. phanerolipsis

White Pine

Black Hills N.F.

$42 $88 $124

Canaan Fir

Per Per 100 1000

Pinus ponderosa

2-0 2-1 2-2

Santa Fe N.F.

Size Age

Pinus strobiformis

5-10" 6-9" 10-18"

Abies concolor


Pinus nigra

Fir Fraser Fir

Pine, Other Evergreens

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

25% deposit due with order. Thank you for your consideration!

Jeff Busscher, Manager

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Can the Family Farm Survive? Children on the farm The family farm model persists even in the face of consolidation and a punishing regulatory environment. But is it really viable? In my mind, the most important part of farming is that it be financially sustainable. This means that it is able to continue operations without outside capital injection (ie, debt) and without government subsidies. Further, for the family farm, it implies that the farm income be at a level which is able to support a family. A recent article published by USAgNet brings some troubling facts to light under a hopeful title: "Farm Household Income Better Than Average". After all, the average family farm income was $77169 in 2009 and is forecast to be $86352 in 2011. Great news, right? Nope. Know why? The average family farm is forecast to receive a whopping 12.9% of their income from farming! So, in reality, the average family farm is making all of $11,174 from being a family farm. The rest comes from off-farm sources. That means one of two things: either most family farms are little more than hobby farms or most family farms are not sustainable and are subsidized by full-time jobs and government money. This is even more incredible when you consider that the average farm is in the neighborhood of 400 acres, which makes the average net less than $30 per acre. Despite this, the growing interest in organic and local agriculture shows promise for small family farms. It is my belief that these two movements are the enablers for a return of the sustainable family farm. A 2008 study by the USDA shows that, of certified USDA Organic farms, 55% receive at least 25% of their income 12

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from farming and nearly 20% receive 100% of their income from onfarm sources. In addition, the average farm size is almost half that of their conventional counterparts. This is encouraging. There is still much work to be done but at least a promising opportunity exists. By Adam Sheridan

Five “Quick Fixes” to Improve Your Farm Marketing This past summer I was hired by the Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association to visit ten agritourism operators in the province. My assignment was to conduct farm reviews and provide recommendations on how each operator could grow their business. It was a good week for me because, not only did I get out of the oppressive heat of our Midwest summer, but I also had the opportunity to visit ten very diverse farming operations and spend time with the farm families. The operations included a bed & breakfast with a spa; some small, outdoor farm stands; a small pasture-fed beef operation; and a few traditional farm markets. Once again it was obvious to me that the farm enterprises in Canada are very similar to those in the United States—except for the fact that they are not suffering from the economic downturn to the same degree as U.S. businesses. In both countries, though, I find that as farmers, we are all still struggling to find the right formula to turn profits on our farms. My project in Ontario required 10 written reports, and in completing them, I began to observe some common issues—issues that I also see in many other farms both in Canada and the U.S. If your farm is not quite where you want to be, here are five “quick fix-

es” I’ve found to be almost universal to farm enterprises nibbling at the edge of their profit potential.

1. Paint Up – Fix Up Farmers always want to show me their “newest” attraction, and they have tremendous enthusiasm for the next great item to be added to their entertainment area. However, when I look at the entire mix of attractions, my attention is often caught by the older ones. At four or five years old, they are showing wear. Sure, the new attractions are fun for you and will excite your visitors, but the wooden picnic tables, play structures, fencing and old signs that have flaking and peeling paint can be a turn-off for your guest no matter what new attraction you added this year. Unfortunately, it is easy for us to walk around our farm and look right past the obvious wear. I suggest you ask an honest friend to take a fresh look to see what needs to be painted, replaced or just thrown on the burn pile.

2. Price For a Profit No matter what size or scale of your operation, you need to be pricing your products to earn you a profit. I am still amazed at the number of farms that continue to have the “wholesale farmer” mentality. If you are growing apples here in the Midwest and have a pick your own farm, then it really does not matter what the prices are of apples from Washington State or anywhere else. Forget about competing on the wholesale price. You are offering both a delicious, locally grown, fresh picked product, and in addition, you provide a unique experience for people to come on your farm. We should not be ashamed or embarrassed to charge a fair price for our labor as well as the value of our products and services.

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

3. Follow Your Passion

4. Be Willing to Change

The farms that do best are those that enjoy what they do and respect their customers. Sure, by the end of October we are tired and looking forward to a winter break or slow down, but if this is the lifestyle you love, you’ll bounce back and be successful.

While some farms are always looking for the “newest” attractions, there are also those that don’t ever want to make changes. There is saying, “If it’s not broke - don’t fix it.” However, in some cases, our guests may view our lack of change as an inability to keep up with the times.

The creative minds never seem to stop. The folks that can combine their own interests and entrepreneurial passion into building a unique business, are sustaining themselves and doing well.

Our agritourism competition continues to expand and continues to raise the bar on farm experiences. For those farms that don’t believe they need to change, I’d like to talk to you five years from now when you are wondering where your customers have gone.

This winter, review your interests and see if they could be used to build a new business based on the farm. Agritourism allows us to not only sell our products but to create experiences people can’t get in town. What else can you create on your farm?

5. Websites Are Critical The Internet has become the marketing media of choice for most of our customers. Yet, so many farms aren’t paying attention to what is on their website and how it is viewed by the public.

A website is your primary billboard to the world, and those printed pieces and other media have now become a much less significant factor in the marketing mix. Make sure that your website is not only attractive with good information and photographs, but that you have a website designed so that the search engines can find you. That means that the text, headlines, and the title and hidden coding behind each webpage must meet the design standards of the search engines. Yet, I see so many websites that fail to include the basic components to be search engine friendly. If you want to learn more about how the search engines find you and how to optimize your site for Google and the others, then I suggest that this winter you might read, SEO for Dummies.

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VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

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The winter is our time to renew and reflect on our operations. Make a point to sit down with your family and discuss these five critical areas to see how you can improve for 2011. Jane Eckert is the founder of Eckert AgriMarketing (, a fullservice marketing and public relations firm that helps farmers to sell directly to consumers, diversify operations and become tourist destinations. She is also CEO of, a search directory for agritourism farms and ranches in North America. Jane can be reached at 314-862-6288 or you may email her directly.

Websites are Ranked #1 Marketing Strategy The preliminary results are in from my Annual Farm Survey, and I’d like to share some of the early marketing results with you while you are making your plans for 2012. This is the ninth year that I have been conducting this survey and it’s interesting to see how both the questions and responses have changed over this period of time. This online survey is sent in early November each year to my e-newsletter database, and is available to all visitors to my website, until the end of the year 2011.

Websites Rank #1 It’s no surprise to me that websites are now ranking as “the most effective” marketing strategy used by farm marketers. While the percentage of farms not having a website (approx 4.7%) has not changed over the past four years, now, over 70% of farms taking my survey rank having a website as their “most important” marketing tool to get new business and to service their existing customers. Most of the farms participating have had their website for over seven 14

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years, but there was just over 18% that have had a website for three years or less. The message for you folks that still don’t have a website – you are not effectively competing in your marketplace or serving your customers unless you have a website. The bottom line is that consumers today want their information fast and at the touch of their fingertips in their home or office. Another important measurement related to their website effectiveness is that over 50% of the farms are updating their sites more than 10 times a year. Frequency of update ranks is an important factor in terms of search engines like Google when it comes to their ranking your farm—frequent updates indicate you are an active rather than passive provider of products and services. And, of course, getting your website to appear on the first page of search results should be a goal for everyone. By the way, while traditional newspaper advertising still appears to be part of the marketing mix, it is truly dropping in usage and perceived value by farm marketers today. Only 4% of the farms taking my survey ranked newspaper advertising as their most important marketing strategy.

Facebook Ranks #2 The first time that I even included Facebook or Social Media as a marketing strategy on my survey was in 2009. It is truly amazing at how quickly this medium has been accepted by not only farm marketers, but also our customers. This year, 84% of the farms responded that they are now using Facebook, and over 62% of them ranked Facebook as either their “most important” or “second best” marketing strategy. The strength of this social media tool is evidenced by an additional 24% of the survey responders who

just got on the Facebook bandwagon in the past 12 months. Even more impressive is that over 45% reported that they post to Facebook at least once per day, and many make multiple posts. If you have been doubtful about the effectiveness of Facebook, I believe these survey results are important for you to consider—the indicators are that if you aren’t posting to Facebook, you should add this strategy to your 2012 marketing mix. Facebook, of course, is not the only social media option, but it is certainly the leader. While some farms are using both Facebook and Twitter, the choice of Facebook is the standout choice. Over 41% of the farms now have over 1,000 followers on Facebook, and many exceed 3,000 – 5,000.

Electronic Newsletters #3 Developing a customer database proves to be a winner for many farms, allowing them to proactively reach out to customers, rather than “waiting to be found.” Over 57% of the survey responders show enewsletters to be an important part of their marketing strategy. Furthermore, when we look at how they rank this media tool, 76% of the responders ranked e-newsletters as either their “most important” or “second best” marketing strategy. Clearly those farms that use enewsletters feel very strongly that connecting directly with their best customers is a marketing must. While the list size varies, a significant number of farms have made collecting email addresses a priority, with almost 35% of the farms indicating that they have databases larger than 2,500 names. The enewsletters they send are most often written and updated by the owner or a family member, with just over 14% using an outside contractor or marketing company to manage their updates. Frequency of e-newsletter

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

contact is also very important, with over one-third of the farms indicating they send up to 40 e-newsletters a year.

One Final Strategy While the above marketing strategies were shown as vital to success, the other significant strategy that the responders checked was to participate in farmers’ markets. While, of course, they make sales at the local farmers’ markets, many farms consider their presence at the market as a marketing tool to get people to also come to their on-farm market. For many small farms and those just starting out, participating in your local farmers’ market might truly be the best way to achieve farm recognition and new customers.

year 2011. If you haven’t already done so, and would like to participate, please go to my website, , to take the survey. Everyone that completes the survey will receive a full breakdown of the results early in January 2012. Jane Eckert is the founder of Eckert AgriMarketing , a full-service marketing and public relations firm that helps farmers to sell directly to consumers, diversify operations and become tourist destinations. She is also CEO of, a search directory for agritourism farms and ranches in North America. Jane can be reached at 314-862-6288 or you may email her directly.

There are many more observations that can be gleaned from this year’s survey, and in fact we will continue gathering data through the end of the

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VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

By Jane Eckert

Becoming a F " an of Facebook A quick review from last month’s column. Social networks, such as Facebook, LinkedIN, YouTube, and Twitter, to name the most popular networks, have changed the way people communicate, share information, and promote their business. For example, Facebook was once designed as a way for high school graduates to keep in touch with their friends, or peers, during college. It was a network of friends among friends. But I am here to tell you, friends, that these networks are no longer just for friends, all of them have become the new frontier for marketing our businesses, and as such, we’ve got to get on board. In June, I put together a short questionnaire about social networking,

Ad – Kelco

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and collected responses from agritourism operators. I wanted to know what they were doing to promote their business through social networking, what programs they used, and what success they’ve enjoyed, if any. I spoke with a pretty good cross-section of farms, most of whom do use traditional websites and e-newsletters, and so I was surprised to find that most of the businesses I spoke to aren’t utilizing the social networks very much, and some haven’t tried them at all. Currently, Facebook has over 200 million active users. More than twothirds of their users are outside of college, making their fastest growing demographic those 35 years and older. And unlike a traditional website, Facebook is constantly changing and evolving, with more than 20 million users updating their statuses, 4 million users becoming “fans” of Pages, 850 million photos uploaded, 8 million videos uploaded and more than 1 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photos, etc.) shared each week. Is anybody looking at all this? You bet. Internet users spent more than 13.9 billion minutes “on Facebook” in just the month of April, 2009. With approximately 72.4% of all Americans and Canadians using the Internet, business cannot ignore its marketing potential. And, to use the Internet most effectively, we need to keep up with the current trends, and the word is, thousands of businesses are setting up Facebook accounts every single day. Setting up an account with Facebook is as easy as having a valid email address and choosing a password. There are, however, three different options for setting up a Facebook presence, and each has a different intended purpose.


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1. Profiles – Profiles are usually personal accounts. Your profile is what your friends, family and customers will see about you. They reflect what people already know and anything else you want to tell them. From your interests and hobbies, work place and school, to favorite books and movies, a profile can tell it all. You can add photos, videos or post links to your profile, however, in order for anyone to see it, they must be your “friend.”

Pages are being created everyday by businesses, large and small. Companies can add all of their contact information, keep others posted about what’s going on, send out messages to users about events or specials and add photo and video content, because everyone knows a picture is worth 1,000 words. Facebook members join pages by becoming a “fan” of that page and are sent notifications when any content is changed or updated.

2. What’s a “friend”? - In the evolution of Facebook, the creators recognized that most of us would prefer to control who sees the information we post online about ourselves. They created a “friending” process, where a person has to ask to see your profile, and you have to grant them permission. If you are not a “friend”, you can only see their name and profile picture.

Most folks just becoming acquainted with Facebook have seen the profiles, and wonder what on earth that has to do with business. So you must understand the differences on these three options: A profile can only be viewed by “friends”, a group relies on hobbies and interests rather than business (thus, a business may not be as easily found), and anyone can find and join a page, which is catered towards businesses.

3. Groups – Facebook will allow you to set up a “Group”. I may have a personal profile, as well as, a group, which is somewhat like a club. Members are allowed to post photos, videos, and links and many are geared to special interests and hobbies. Not everyone can join a group and some even require an invitation.

When I say “You should consider having your farm on Facebook,” I’m not talking about groups or profiles; creating a page would be the best option for an agritourism business to get involved!

4. Pages – A “Fan Page” is typically the new tool of choice for businesses. The page uses the same format as a “profile” and the creator must be authorized to set up the account. The primary difference is that anyone may become a fan of the page (you don’t have to ask permission) and the creator has full control over what is added, as opposed to a group, where any member can add material.

Using Facebook as a marketing strategy is difficult for many to grasp, but it’s not an option when you weigh the benefits: 

Increase awareness of business – A fan of your page could suggest others to become fans and the cycle could lead to more “word of mouth” marketing.

Increase communication with existing or potential customers – Once your page is created, your followers can keep track of your events and specials as you post them.

Increase customer interest – By uploading new photos or videos, your customers will feel

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

more involved and will want to return if those media reflect any type of change. For example, uploading a photo album of a new attraction will get followers to view the photos and then entice them to see it for themselves. 

Increase visibility on the Web – Its simple: the more Web sites that link to your business’ site, the more hits you will receive when someone searches your destination (i.e. hyperlinking your business site with your Facebook page).

Increase customer retention – special offers or events keep your fans up-to-date and give your customers another reason to return.

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Facebook is FREE! Facebook is EASY!. With over 200 million users on Facebook, you can reach millions of people you would have never found! A Facebook “Fan Page” can certainly offer great ways to market your business to its full capacity. Next month, I will be continuing my thoughts on social networks and will be highlighting agritourism destinations who have implemented social networks through Facebook. Until then, think of all of the possibilities you could open up if you just used the Internet! Jane Eckert, a national speaker, author and agritourism expert, is principal of Eckert AgriMarketing (, a firm that helps farmers sell products directly to consumers and develop their operations into tourist destinations. Jane can be reached by phone 314-862-6288 or at

Shearing Techniques for Fraser Fir By Eric Hinesley, Earl Deal and Buddy Deal

[Editor’s Note: Dr. Hinesley and Earl Deal gave an excellent presentation on this topic at the VCTGA Annual Meeting in Blacksburg in August and the VCTGA Board thought that this should be reprinted for all of our members to be able to have access to this information.] Two things make the Christmas tree industry what it is today: plantations and shearing. In the early years, nonsheared Fraser fir trees were harvested from wild stands growing on isolated mountaintops in western North Carolina, eastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia. Later, production shifted to plantations well below the elevation of natural stands, and shearing was adopted. As time went by, tree density progressively increased, resulting in trees that are quite dense and heavy, often looking like inverted ice cream cones. There are many ideas about the best way to shear Christmas Trees, including Fraser fir. A pioneer in shearing research was Barney Douglass in the Pacific Northwest. After testing many methods, he concluded it was best to shear noble fir with knives soon after cessation of shoot elongation in mid-summer (July and August).

North Carolina Christmas Tree Association Winter Meeting & Trade Show Thurs/Friday, March 1-2, 2012 Boone United Methodist Church.

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

A select, or or“super” “super”tree, tree,next nexttotoother other A select, trees sheared in the usual manner. trees sheared in the usual manner.

In the early 1990s, experiments were initiated in North Carolina to study growth and quality of Fraser fir in relation to shearing date. Two publications related to that work can be viewed at the NCSU Extension website at and search for “Christmas tree shearing”. These studies show that the best time to shear is in July and August. They also showed that shearing reduced the potential growth of trees by 40% to 55% depending on timing. There is always a demand for some large trees to be used in churches, businesses, large homes, etc. Historically, these trees were produced by retaining the lower grade and/or slow growing stragglers from a harvested stand, and continuing to shear them annually until they could be sold. The resulting trees were also very dense and heavy. This management technique is often referred to as "High Grading" in the forestry profession. In effect, the slower growing, poorer quality trees have been used to produce .the largest trees throughout the Christmas Tree industry. The value of a tree is determined first by its height and second, by its density. If trees can be "stretched" during shearing (i.e. leave a longer leader), they reach commercial height quicker and/or grow to a taller size in a given number of years. Page 17

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It should be noted that to fairly evaluate the effect of leader length on growth and quality, it was necessary to randomly assign various leader lengths to individual trees. However, in a real Christmas tree operation, this would not be the case; long leaders would be used only on the fastest growing trees with the greatest bud set and natural potential for high density. Harvesting from the study began in 2005. Approximately equal numbers of trees were removed annually from each treatment to maintain adequate growing space for residual trees. About 200 of the original 660 trees were still present after 2008; the tallest trees were 14 to 15 feet (Picture 1). The height and the USDA grade of each tree in the study were recorded each year beginning in 2005. Fresh weight and basal stem diameter was recorded for each tree harvested in 2008 and 2009. Average wholesale value ($) per tree was calculated for each shearing treatment (2005 to 2008) assuming the stand was clear-cut in 2008.

Observations and Conclusions

2) Despite having a lower average USDAgrade, grade,the theaverage average wholesale wholesale value 2) Despite having a lower average USDA value of of harvestedtrees trees with with 16- and twice thethe value of trees harvested and 18-inch 18-inchleaders leaderswas wasmore morethan than twice value of with1010- and and 12-inch 12-inch leaders. of of Smokey Holler trees with leaders.Buddy BuddyDeal Dealowner/manager owner/manager Smokey Holler Farm, shows example a treesheared shearedwith withtan an 18-inch 18-inch leader. shows an an example of of a tree leader. TreeTree Farm,

This also yields a tree with a more natural appearance and has other advantages, such as less weight per tree, more trees per truck, etc. We initiated a replicated field experiment in 2001 to look at the effect of leader length on the growth and value of Fraser fir Christmas trees. Spacing was 5 x 5 feet, at an elevation of about 3,500 feet. Shearing began in 2001 when trees were 3 to 4 feet tall. Each of the nine shearing 18

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treatments involved a different leader length or combination of lengths. The range in leader length was 10 to 18 inches. Leader shearing in some treatments started when the terminal bud cluster was 3 feet above ground line; in others, after the terminal bud cluster reached 5 feet. From the outset, trees were side sheared in all treatments to control taper. Shearing was done once each year in July or August.

Long leaders are useful only where tree vigor is good and budset is adequate. If trees are stressed by drought, or if soil fertility and pH are off the mark, growth and budset will diminish and long leaders will not be an option. There is huge variation among trees sheared alike. Shearing techniques that employ long leaders should be applied only to the trees of highest vigor and density. Given good growing conditions and vigorous trees, the best trees normally are evident by the time they reach 3 to 4 feet in height. If a tree is destined to be grown to a height of 10 feet or more, there is little need to clip the leader before the tree reaches a height of 4 or 5 feet. However,

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

side shearing may be needed as early as 3 feet tall to maintain narrow taper in fields with close spacing.

stretched trees would have less weight because they would reach a given height in fewer years.

Short leaders (10 and 12 inches) result in more 'horns' or off-center tops in the top of sheared trees. This is minimized with tops left at lengths over 12 inches. Short leaders generally have fewer buds, and therefore are less dominant over those limbs that can form "horns." In this study, the optimum leader length was 16 inches.

There are risks associated with long leaders. First, bud set and growth must be good; otherwise, crown density will be sparse. Second, long leaders increase the risk from factors such as late frost and hail storms. These events, which occur once or twice every decade in western North Carolina, can lead to gaps or distinct changes in crown density, which can greatly reduce USDA grade. These could actually make the tree a cull. Third, if a long leader is used over a period of years, changing to a shorter leader length might result in "shoulders" in the upper crown. This change in leader lengths could cause the tree to have uneven density, making it a cull. It becomes even more difficult to prevent "shoulders" when switching to 10- and 12-inch leaders as the tree ages and becomes taller. Finally, trees occasionally produce heavy cone crops, and the reduction in USDA grade likely will be worse in trees with long leaders.

Long leaders (16 and 18 inches) yielded taller trees - a plus, but average USDA grade tended to decrease - a negative. Looking at the extremes, 95% of trees sheared with 10-inch leaders were grade 1 or premium, compared to 42% for 18inch leaders. However, average height of trees with 10-inch leaders was 8.9 feet compared to 12.2 feet for 18-inch leaders. Obviously, there is a trade-off between larger trees of lower average grade versus smaller trees of higher average grade. Despite having a lower average USDA grade, the average wholesale value of harvested trees with 16- and 18-inch leaders was more than twice the value of trees with 10- and 12-inch leaders. Thus, the average gain in height more than compensated for the average loss in grade. At first, we thought long leaders would yield taller trees with less weight and smaller trunk diameters compared to trees grown with shorter leaders. The opposite occurred; trees with 16- and 18-inch leaders had the largest trunk diameters, and were almost 50% heavier than trees sheared with 10- and 12- inch leaders. They were also 3 feet taller, but had a lower average grade. Please note that these generalizations are for trees harvested at the same age, not the same height. If the comparisons were based on equal height rather than equal age, it is likely that VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

Using two shearing systems within a stand creates some additional inconvenience and expense compared to standard shearing. Because select trees might reach a height of 8 to 9 feet in a rotation compared to 6 to 7 feet for the average tree, the shearing crew might have to carry additional equipment such as shorthandled pole pruners to reach the upper whorl and leader. There also is the expense and inconvenience of marking selected trees. Finally, when harvesting begins, the marking process is more challenging because the grower must be careful to maintain adequate growing space for select trees. We feel the best way to implement these findings is to select the best trees early in the rotation in fields with optimum terrain (flat is better). The best trees, rather than the worst,

can then be sheared to achieve a greater size than the other trees in the stand. (Picture 2) This is not a technique to use in all stands and all sites. A grower should know his market for big trees, and adjust accordingly. Remember, this approach is possible only if trees have good bud set and vigor. By identifying the best trees early and shearing them with longer leaders, a grower can take advantage of their greater growth potential. This study and some additional field experience has shown that 16 inches is the target leader length on select Fraser fir trees in the mountains of North Carolina. This length captures most of the potential growth (compared to non-sheared trees) and value. It is less risky than 18-inch leaders and yields a higher percentage (65% vs. 42%) of premium and no. 1 trees. In the forestry profession, holding the best trees for the final harvest is called "Thinning From Below." In most Christmas tree operations, a stand is harvested over three years. To maximize gain, stretched trees should be harvested late in the cutting cycle. Combined with better genetic stock, we believe it can produce larger trees faster, lower production cost of this size tree and increase revenue for growers. In the "real world" of growing large Christmas Trees, we have found that the use of white coat hangers is a good way to identify selected trees. Although trees can be marked by any of several means, the chosen method should not be too labor intensive, or interfere with shearing. White coat hangers work well because they contrast with green trees. Further, they can easily be removed for shearing, and replaced higher on the tree after shearing. If a select tree lags or deteriorates in quality during the rotation, simply remove the coat hanger and resume shearing it like Page 19

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the other trees in the stand. After the select trees have been sheared for three years, they are distinctly taller than surrounding trees, and hangers are no longer needed. (Picture 2). About the Authors: Eric Hinesley is a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Horticultural Science at North Carolina State University. Earl Deal is a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Wood and Paper Science at North Carolina State University and owner/manager of Smokey Holler Tree Farm in Laurel Springs, N.C. Buddy Deal currently serves as owner/ manager of Smokey Holler Tree Farm in Laurel Springs, N.C. Re-printed with permission of Eric Hinesley, Earl Deal and the American Christmas Tree Journal, October 2010

Virginia Farming WVPT-TV to promote “Experience a Real Tree” [The Virginia Farming program will continue even though Jeff Ishee is moving to a new role. The VCTGA is a program sponsor for 2012-13.] HARRISONBURG — It took a national search for the Rockingham County Fairgrounds to realize the best candidate was just down the road in Mount Sidney. Jeff Ishee, who hosts radio and TV shows on farming, plus writes a weekly vegetable gardening column for The News Leader, started his new job January 1 with the Fairgrounds. “I am deeply humbled and honored to be selected for this position,” said Ishee. “The Rockingham County Fairgrounds is the epicenter of the Shenandoah Valley community in my opinion. I look forward to serving as the new General Manager and am grateful for the opportunity.” Ishee replaces veteran GM Dennis Cupp, who recently retired after 20

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serving in the position for nearly three decades. Ishee has a six-day-a-week radio show, On the Farm, and he hosts and produces Virginia Farming weekly for Virginia Public Television. He has received several awards for his writing and broadcasting, including six straight years of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s Agriculture Journalism Award for Broadcasting (radio category), as well as the television and Internet category. In 2010, the Bureau changed the award to the Ishee/Quann Award for Media Excellence. “Jeff Ishee embodies all of the qualities we were looking for in the General Manager” observed Richard Chew, outgoing President of the Fair Association. “I am very pleased that Jeff is joining the Fair Association.” The first Rockingham County Fair was held at the Linville Ball Park during the summer of 1949. The fair has been held at the present site on U.S. 11 since 1980 and reported record attendance in 2011. The fairgrounds account for 111 acres of land, a 21,000-square-foot exhibit hall, a large barn complex, numerous buildings for horticulture and poultry exhibits, and food booths run by local civic organizations. There is also a large grandstand area for events such as concerts, tractor pulls, rodeos, and motocross. “It is an enormous responsibility,” said Ishee. “My goal is to duplicate the successful management style of Dennis Cupp and continue to showcase the organization and the fairgrounds as the state’s finest agricultural county fair.” The Rockingham County Fair Association is a non-profit organization. The fairgrounds are used throughout the year for a variety of events.

New Website for the Virginia Agribusiness Council We are excited to announce the launch of our new and improved Virginia Agribusiness Council website! You will find easy access to a wealth of information. We invite you to take a "tour" of our website at now. Our State and national policies along with issue communications define the Council's government relations work. Highlights of our events and a calendar entice you to be engaged. Your membership can be renewed online and then all of your activities can be viewed and updated in your own personal profile. The complete membership information is easy for you to share with prospective members. As a member, you have exclusive access to a membership directory, legislator voting records, and Council newsletters. As an added value for our members, you may add a website address to promote your business that will display in the public membership pages. We hope you enjoy our new website and are anxious to hear your comments and suggestions for further improving its value to you. Thank you. Donna Pugh Johnson Mission - We represent Virginia Agribusiness with a Unified Voice Editor’s Note: the VCTGA is a member of the VAC and the VAC serves as our “eyes and ear” in Richmond.

If your farm is not a business member, we strongly encourage you to join and support their efforts in Richmond on behalf of all the Agriculture Industry.

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

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Top States in U.S. Christmas tree cash receipts, 2010 Virginia in Top 10! Christmas trees are grown in all 50 states including Hawaii and Alaska. Christmas tree growers are as diverse as any other farm specialization, ranging from large sophisticated operations in the Pacific Northwest to smaller cut your own operations in the Southeast. In 2010, Christmas trees produced by U.S. farms generated $375 million in cash receipts. The top tree producing States (in terms of cash receipts) were Oregon, North Carolina, Washington, and Michigan. Combined, these states accounted for 70 percent of total Christmas tree receipts. This chart is based on ERS annual cash receipts data.

New Specialty License Plate Supporting Community Trees A new specialty license plate is available for pre-order in Virginia. The Virginia Loves Trees license plate features a community skyline enhanced by trees (with one tree even featuring a swing) in eye-catching blues and greens and is designed to raise awareness of the value of community trees in Virginia. In Virginia, 450 plates must be pre-sold before the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will put the proposed plate into production. Pre-sales of the Virginia Loves Trees plate began October 1, 2011. After 450 are sold, funds are


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turned over to the DMV and plates will be available at any DMV location. Plates can be ordered online, or in the mail using forms downloaded from the Virginia Loves Trees website Supporting organizations include the urban forestry program at Virginia Tech in the College of Natural Resources & Environment, Trees Virginia, the Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association, the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture, and the Green Industry Council. Susan Day, faculty member in the urban forestry program at Virginia Tech, urges prospective buyers to order a plate as soon as possible. “Plates won’t go into production until 450 are ordered, so the sooner those 450 founding plates are sold, the sooner the DMV can begin producing plates.” According to Day, “the value of the plate isn’t just supporting community trees monetarily, but also showing to other Virginians that you care about the trees in your neighborhood and community—it raises people’s awareness of a valuable component of their community that many take for granted until it is gone.” The Virginia Loves Trees plate is a revenue-sharing specialty plate, meaning that $15 of the $25 plate fee will go to the sponsoring organizations. Revenue sharing begins after the first 1,000 plates are sold. Currently revenues will be divided between Trees Virginia and the Urban Forestry Program at Virginia Tech to fund education, outreach, and partnerships around the state to enhance Virginia’s community tree canopy. The plate was designed by a student graphic design group at Virginia Tech and Tech marketing students are putting together a plan to help spread the word throughout the state. However, at least 450 plates must be pre-sold before this community tree promotion program can begin. Visit for more information or to order a plate. Dr. Susan D. Day, Assistant Professor, Department of Forest Resources & En-

vironmental Conservation & Department of Horticulture, VA Tech, Blacksburg, VA 540-231-7264

Trees For Troops Recording Setting Year! Well, we did it! The Christmas tree industry around the country donated 100,000 trees over a 6 year period to military families in the US and abroad. With the help of growers, lot owners, The Christmas Spirit Foundation and a huge contribution from FedEx, the 100,000 was received on December 9th right here in Virginia at Camp Pendleton by Sgts. Jonathan and Jessica Felix and their two small children. This is quite an accomplishment and just think the seed for the idea was planted several years ago here in Virginia when Tom and Donna O'Halloran began donating trees to Marines at Quantico. I think all of us would agree that this effort has been a win-win for our industry and the dedicated service men and women who protect our freedom every day. Our state certainly did its share this year to make the 100,000 the tree a reality. We donated a record number of trees, and I'm hoping after the final numbers are in, led the nation in the total number of trees. We had a total of seven pickup locations that donated over 1600 trees, and to my knowledge, that surpasses any numbers from past years. In addition the Marines from Quantico picked up over 100 trees at the O'Halloran’s that was not a part of the "official" Trees for Troops total numbers. We had several members that stepped to up to make this a reality. I don't have a complete list of donors and fear leaving someone out if I tried to list all of the participating farms. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for making this a record breaking year for what has become a very positive outpouring of generosity to the very special men and women of our armed forces. Provided by John Carroll, VCTGA’s 2010-2011 NCTA director

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

Virginia Christmas 2011

Trees for Troops

Trees being loaded at Willow Springs Tree Farms, Radford, one of seven pick up locations in Virginia. First Ceremonial Tree Cutting by the Vir-

ginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, First Ceremonial Tree Cutting by the Todd Haymore, and his family. Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry and his family.

And the tree comes down!

And the tree comes down!

Other locations: 

Mount Rogers Christmas Tree Farm, Whitetop, VA

Claybrooke Farm Christmas Trees, Mineral, VA

Valley Star Farms, Lurary, VA

Severt’s Tree Farm, Elk Creek, VA

Glengary Farm, Amissville, VA

Twin Fir Farms, Willis, VA

Real Christmas Tree Promotions

Greg Lemmer Promoting the “Real Tree Experience at the Greater Augusta Agritourism Festival, October 23, held at the Hermitage Hill Farm & Stables, Waynesboro, VA Janet and I enjoyed a beautiful day at the festival. The Chamber rep told me nearly 500 people attended along with another 100 as vendors. There were probably around 35 booths and displays. We were visited by 30 different families, couples, and individuals, totaling upwards to 100 people. We took a wreath table but really did not attract much attention demonstrating wreath and swag making. What did draw people was the fragrance of fresh cut pine, spruce and cedar tips. Leanne DeBois had a booth and shared the new edition of the Christmas Tree Growers guide. We handed out 15 copies but no one specifically identified themselves as a wholesale buyer. The banner looked good Thanks to Greg for helping promote Real Trees!

RealChristmas Christmas Tree Experience AAReal Tree Experience heads heads home! home!

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

VCTGA News Journal – Winter 2012

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383 Coal Hollow Rd Christiansburg, VA 24073-6721 540-382-7310 383 Coal Hollow Rd Christiansburg, VA

24073-6721 www.Virginia 540-382-7310 www.Virginia

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VCTGAVCTGA News Journal – Winter− 2012 News Journal Winter 2012

VCTGA News Journal ‐ Fall 2011