Local tree farmers busy as Christmas approaches

Monday, December 05, 2016 - Updated: 7:23 AM


Recorder News Staff

For many, the holiday season is often spent wrapping gifts, baking or bonding with family, but local tree farmers are hard at work.

In Galway, Bob's Trees Owner Kathy Doyle said she expects their weekends to be busier than previous years.

"The economy seems to be improving a little," Doyle said. "Everyone seems to be in the real Christmas spirit of giving and everything this year."

Bob's Trees sells Fraser Fir, Balsam Fir and Blue Spruce. They also have wreath, garland and kissing balls.

"It's a big one for us and we really enjoy doing this," Doyle said.

Trees are cut on the farm daily and Doyle said they are continuously being hauled in. She said people are "still looking for the real thing" opposed to having an artificial tree.

Doyle said her trees go up Nov. 1 and last until mid-January. During the summer months employees are hired to do shearing, which gives a tree its shape.

Bob's Trees is open until 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Doyle said many families have a tradition to come and pick out their tree that day.

Goderie's Tree Farm in Johnstown has also been busy. From Nov. 1 through December most of the family is working 80 to 100 hours per week.

However, manager Jared Goderie said preparation for the holiday season begins in April as the trees and fields need care months before Christmas. Goderie said all the fertilizing and trimming needs to be taken into consideration.

"It takes eight to 10 years to grow a Christmas tree to a harvestable size," Goderie said. "So realistically, the trees that we are selling in the yard today, it started [growing] eight years ago."

Tree farming is dependent on a successful growing season. Goderie said about eight to 10,000 trees are planted each year. He said every year they prepare for a 15 to 20 percent loss. In years with severe drought, 75 percent of a crop has been lost.

"For a successful growing season, one of the biggest things we depend on is a good cold winter," Goderie said. "Last winter being so warm we actually lost more trees than we ever have before because the trees never went fully winter dormant."

Goderie is hopeful for a cold winter and a spring and summer with normal rainfall.

"I don't know if I would say I look forward to it [this season]," Goderie said. "I think it's great because it's obviously how we make a portion of our living. We also do a lot of landscaping that carries us April on through, but this a big portion of how we make a living. There's four families that are supported by this farm."

For the Christmas season, the Goderies expect to sell between 800 to 1,000 trees. The varieties grown are Balsam Fir, Fraser Fir, Colorado Blue Spruce and White Spruce. The farm also sells wreaths and kissing balls.

For those who pick a fir for their Christmas tree, Goderie advises individuals to keep it watered. During the first week, a tree will drink a lot of water and Goderie said if the tree goes dry, it will seal up and not retain anymore water.

Doyle agreed and recommended that people should cut a quarter of an inch off the base of a tree before placing it in the stand. She also advised to water the tree twice a day during the first week.

Herba's Acres Tree Farm in Perth is also open, having started their season on Black Friday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also shined a light on local tree farms this year, encouraging residents to support local tree growers by buying local this holiday season.

"New York is fourth in the nation for the number of Christmas tree farms," Cuomo said in a released statement. " We look forward to further growing the industry this coming holiday season. When New Yorkers buy New York products from New York farms and businesses, everybody wins."

More than 300,000 trees are sold from 875 farms in upstate New York, according to the Christmas Tree Farmers Association. The industry has an $8 million economic impact on the state.

"Adding a New York-grown tree to your home during the holidays is an easy way to promote local farms while supporting jobs and generating revenue for our communities," Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky said in the release.