The festive season is upon us! Christmas – A.K.A the "Most Wonderful Time of the Year" – is a celebration made especially wonderful by a host of global traditions. But there is perhaps no tradition quite as iconic as the Christmas tree!
We can all appreciate the festive significance of the fir tree, when donning baubles, fairy lights and tinsel. But how about getting into the Christmas spirit by starting your very own fir tree farm? In today's blog, we'll explore the ins and outs of fir tree farming - and take a sneak peek into the history of our favorite festive foliage!
Festive Fir Trees: A Brief History
The Christmas tree is a universal festive symbol across the globe. However, when did the fir tree's starring role in the holiday season begin? Well, fir trees are evergreen, meaning they keep their green leaves all year round. Back in ancient times, evergreen trees held sacred, significant meaning to people of various cultures, particularly in the winter months. This is because they symbolized everlasting life, and the promise that all greenery will flourish again, come Spring.
Meanwhile, the Christmas tree tradition itself was born in Germany in the 16th century. Devout Christians would bring large fir trees into their homes, which they would then decorate with lit candles. Fast-forward to the mid-19th century, the Christmas tree's popularity was on the rise worldwide. America was somewhat late to the party; however, they soon joined the fold and embraced the Christmas tree in all its glory.
Nowadays, families worldwide welcome in the festive season with their very own Christmas tree. Electric Christmas lights soon replaced candlelight, along with a plethora of other homely decorations – not to mention the tradition of placing piles of presents under the tree! Take a look at this list of Christmas tree traditions around the world to learn more!
Famous Fir Tree Farms
It's safe to say that fir trees are an iconic staple of numerous cultures – therefore, it's no surprise that many farmers set about growing their own! So, let's take a road trip together to discover some of our favorite fir tree farms.
Recently, Strawsons Woodland opened up its famous Christmas tree farm to the public. Strawsons Woodland, in Lincolnshire, England, was founded by farm owner Peter Strawson, who has been growing fir trees since 1971. He and his team have sold Christmas trees every year since, averaging approximately 30,000. Now, that's a whole lot of needles! This year, he's expecting large crowds to flock to his farm – particularly in light of the price of artificial trees increasing tenfold. The farm has six varieties of fir trees available, with the customer favorite being the Nordmann Fir. Peter also believes in making the purchasing process a fun, interactive experience for all the family: "If people sign a waiver, they can take a bow saw out and spend as much time as they like enjoying the countryside and getting their own family Christmas tree." Farm staff are also on hand to cut down trees if preferred!
Wonderland Tree Farm in Arkansas, USA, is a family-run farm that, much like BKT, was built on traditional family values. Martin and Jill Babb's story dates back to 1981: "when we went on a search for our family Christmas tree. After looking at many places, there wasn't a tree that felt like it was meant for us. That sparked an idea, what if we grew our own? From there, our passion for our new Christmas tradition spread to sharing it with others through our Christmas Tree Farm." How lovely! The farm is inclusive for all the family – even offering hayrides and the opportunity to send letters to Santa! In terms of produce, Wonderland Tree Farm offers a range of fir trees: from Scotch Pine to White Pine, to Leyland Cypress. What's more, they also give you a helping hand with decoration! For that extra Christmassy touch, you can buy homemade wreaths and garlands at the farm.
Finally, let's journey to Germany: the home of the Christmas tree. There are many thriving fir tree farms in Germany – particularly ones that champion organic farming. Uhlandhof is another farm that offers customers the opportunity to cut down their own trees or choose one of the pre-cut trees on offer. This large farm has a wide variety of fir trees on sale – in addition to its family-friendly attractions, including: a Christmas market, horseback riding (we can pretend they're reindeer!), and even a visit from Santa Claus!
Fir Tree Farming Tips
So, do you now feel suitably inspired to start your very own fir tree farm? While it may seem like a lucrative prospect, fir tree farming is no easy (sleigh) ride! However, if you follow these expert tips, you'll be on the snowy path to success.
If you've taken the plunge and started up your farm, there are several key elements that you need to pay close attention to. Firstly, the soil: fir trees don't deal well with wet conditions or erosion. Therefore, you need to ensure that your fir trees grow in optimal soil conditions – sans weeds! Regular weeding is the only solution for this particular bugbear. You also need to be aware of the many different types of fir trees, as they each respond differently to different soil pH levels.
As previously mentioned, there are an array of different types of fir trees to choose from. Like any species, they are all unique and require different conditions to thrive. Therefore, you must ensure that there is a method to your species selection; do your research, and plant fir trees that are best suited to your geographic region - and its weather conditions. Also, it's important that you consider your fir tree farm from a business angle; which species will sell best in your region? Choosing the right species is only half the battle: you then need to ensure that your planting stock fits all the criteria, from size to age, to overall quality. Remember, your customers will be shopping for healthy fir trees in their prime!
Once you've established your farm's location and the produce that will inhabit it, it is essential that you efficiently plan your plantation layout. You must ensure that your farm consists of both fields and well-constructed roads; this combination will allow you to easily navigate between fields and manage your farm. For example, you may want to categorize fields by tree species - which will then be separated by different roads. Planning your farm's overall layout will also allow you to brainstorm business ideas: can you think of any family-friendly additions to your fir tree farm? You may be inspired by some of the famous examples we gave earlier; your festive additions could range from complementary produce (such as holly), to gift stores and fun activities for all the family.
Once you've planned your layout, you must prepare your site for planting. Depending on your location, this process can involve: raking roots, disking, strip-tilling and subsoiling - to name but a few! Neglecting site preparation will only cost you more in the long run, so it is paramount that you take the necessary steps beforehand. Meanwhile, you should also prepare yourself for the long haul. A Christmas tree farm is a long-term commitment, which requires consistent maintenance (pruning and shaping, anyone?) and an ambitious vision for a profitable future. But as with any business, success doesn't occur overnight! However, if you're prepared to put in the time, work and heart, Christmas could certainly come early for you and your fir tree farm.