Consider it Christmas in July for a special breed of tree growers.
The 43rd annual conference of the Christmas Tree Farmers Association of New York is being held in Holland through Saturday. The event, which is held on a different farm in New York State each year, aims to improve the quality and efficiency of Christmas tree farms as growers share ideas and best practices.
“It’s a once-a-year one-stop shop for social networking, shopping, learning, trying new equipment; it’s all right here in one place,” said Mary Jeanne Packer, the association's executive director.
Many people might not realize that New York is one of the five most prolific states when it comes to growing Christmas trees.
“Of course there’s Oregon and Washington, and the Carolinas,” Pakcer told WBFO. “But after that, it’s us, Pennsylvania and Michigan; [we] are the next tier of the big growing states.
What could growers discuss for three full days? The conference includes workshops, demonstrations and group discussions. There are sessions tailored to help new growers as they get started in the industry. A number of farms in Western New York staged open houses Thursday, including Christmas tree growers in Eden, Springville and Arcade. Vendors also set up displays to showcase equipment and supplies that relate to the Christmas Tree industry.
There was a time in the recent past when growers faced some formidable challenges.
“Probably 10 years ago, the Christmas tree industry kind of hit bottom a little bit,” said Packer. “People didn’t want the hassle, they wanted the convenience of a fake tree. Then they realized that what they’re losing with a fake tree is the smell, the appearance, it just wasn’t the same.”
But Packer described the current economic climate for Christmas tree growers as “excellent,” noting that the strong local food movement has spurred people to pay attention to where products are grown.
“People want agricultural products that are as fresh as they can be, and grown close to home at places where they can know the family farmer, and know it’s the greatest quality and most fresh product.”
This year’s Christmas tree extravaganza is being held the Country Pine Farm and Natural Land Works in Holland. The Humphries Road farm is owned by Ray and Ann Zywiczynski.
“We value our Christmas tree farms and welcome local growers from New York state and beyond to the Western New York area,” said Ray Zywiczynski.