Christmas in July? Virginia tree growers preparing now

christmas treeIt may be only mid-July, but Virginia Christmas tree growers are preparing now for their holiday sales season.

“People think we only work one month out of the year, but that’s not the case,” said Carlos Taylor, who co-operates Severt’s Tree Farm in Grayson County with his wife, Sherrie.

This week, Taylor and his employees started trimming the firs that they grow, along with Norway and Scotch pines and a few blue spruces. The trees that will be cut and sold this year are being trimmed on top, and those that will continue growing are being sheared into the desired conical shape.

Taylor said his staff starts tending to the trees in April and continues working on them through Dec. 15. He has one crew of H-2A workers who arrive in April and another who come for the harvest season, which starts in September.

This year has been a good growth year for Virginia Christmas trees, Taylor said.

“Last year we had too much rain, which doesn’t seem right because rain is good. But too much water can be as bad for tree growth as drought.”

Taylor sells trees to wholesalers in Florida, Maryland, New Jersey and New York and to some retailers in Virginia. He said people are “finally starting to realize that Virginia grows good trees” and credited the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Virginia Grown program with helping to promote the industry.

Christmas trees will be promoted at this year’s State Fair of Virginia, which will be held Sept. 26 through Oct. 5 at The Meadow Event Park in Caroline County. The Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association will provide fresh-cut, 6-foot trees for a new Christmas tree decorating competition. The decorated trees will be displayed in the horticulture tent throughout the fair.

The top three winners of the competition will be asked to decorate trees that will be displayed during the Illuminate Light Show, which will run Nov. 14 through Jan. 3, 2015, at The Meadow. The competition theme is “Virginia’s Bounty,” and the use of natural materials is encouraged.

An entry form and guidelines are available at

Virginia is ranked 16th in the United States for sales of cut Christmas trees, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture. The state has more than 500 Christmas tree farms.

“There are plenty of locations across the state that sell Virginia-grown Christmas trees,” said Tony Banks, a Virginia Farm Bureau Federation commodity marketing specialist. “If you want to pick or cut your own trees, there are plenty of tree farms across the state as well, and the outing can become a treasured family tradition.”

The VCTGA and VDACS publish an annual directory of choose-and-cut Christmas tree farms. Information also is available at


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