Christmas tree growers work hard and late to meet demand

christmas treeNeither cold, rain, sleet, snow nor nightfall stops Carlos and Sherrie Taylor from getting their Christmas trees harvested and shipped to their customers.

The Grayson County tree farmers and their employees put in long days from early November to mid-December—often working around the clock—to get their trees to buyers up and down the East Coast.

The Taylors operate and manage Severt’s Tree Farm in Elk Creek, which is owned by Sherrie Taylor’s parents, Mike and Kathy Severt.

“We cut 70,000-plus trees every winter in about six weeks’ time,” Carlos Taylor said. “We ship the trees all the way up to New York and as far down as Florida.”

Workers begin cutting trees around the first of November and are done with the bulk of the harvest around Thanksgiving, but they continue to cut trees until around Dec. 10. To harvest the trees, one person operates the chain saw, and another serves as the “stick man,” using a rod to raise the lower branches of each tree so the saw operator can see the trunk and make the cut. Employees use a baler to string-wrap each tree, and all the cut trees are transported to a warehouse where they are sorted for shipping.

“We cut trees in the snow or rain. If we get behind we load them in the dark and at night. I put lights out in the fields so we can see,” Taylor said.

According to the latest Census of Agriculture, Virginia is ranked seventh nationwide for the number of Christmas trees harvested, with more than 478,000 trees. The state is home to more than 500 tree operations, and Christmas trees are planted on 10,000 acres.

Severt’s Tree Farm sells mostly Fraser firs but also some blue spruce, Scotch pine and grand fir trees, as well as fresh wreaths. They cut trees to all sizes, from tabletop, which is 3 feet tall, up to 12 feet tall.

“It takes a year per foot to grow a tree, and there’s always something to do with the trees,” Taylor said. “There’s a lot of labor that goes into growing Christmas trees.”

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