On average, it takes 5-6 years for an evergreen tree to reach 6-8 feet. This means that when a Christmas tree farm goes out of business, there remains acres of young trees still growing that potentially won’t be harvested.
When a tree farmer chooses to retire, it is very rare that his buyers are looking to farm, as well. Sometimes the timing is that lucky, but often it is not. So when the sale is made, what happens to all the young trees still growing? If the tree farmer delays selling, hoping that young, tree farmer buyer will still come along, what does that mean for the trees ready to be cut?
A solution to this dilemma is to rent the tree farm to a manager. Landscapers, garden center owners, vegetable growers and farmers market/CSA managers are all types of people who may be qualified to care for trees. They are also constantly looking for extra off-season work. Many already bring in Christmas trees to sell through their shops and could also use other sources.
Some growers resist the idea of managing tree farms because they don’t have time to become full-time Christmas tree farmers in addition to the farming they already do. But it doesn’t have to be a full-time commitment. This solution is about ushering a property through its transition period, not a permanent takeover. If the property is going out of production, there isn’t new planting to be done; the work becomes solely about the upkeep and harvest of what remains.
This arrangement is a triple-win. It provides the grower managing the tree farm with more winter work. It supplies the former tree farmer with some additional cash. The third winner in this deal is the environment and community. Having these trees managed by a caretaker is far better than having them bulldozed by a developer.
I would encourage anyone looking for ways to add to the winter schedule to search your community for tree farms going out of business.
I would also encourage any retiring tree farmer to seek out this kind of deal. If you are having trouble finding the perfect set of hands to pass your farm onto, this temporary solution could give you some time as you come to a more permanent decision.
The above column is written for educational purposes and should not take the place of legal business advice. To respond to these ideas or pitch future column topics, e-mail the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.