Christmas trees are an emerging farm crop on the prairies. Production is very different from traditional annual agricultural crops. Some people believe they can plant the trees, wait eight to ten years, and harvest a lucrative crop. It is not that easy.
Potential growers should consider: - the resources needed - land, water, labour, and money; - your expected returns for your efforts; - your ability to effectively develop production, business, and marketing skills; and - your interest, passion, and patience to produce a crop that takes eight to twelve years to get to market.
It is essential to understand the market and have a clear idea of how you will market your trees before planting them. The successful grower must not develop tunnel vision, but keep an open mind to new ideas. There are many aspects of tree production to understand including planning, seedling acquisition, stand establishment and management, pest control, pruning and harvesting. Although marketing is not a part of crop production, it will ultimately determine economic success or failure.
The prairies have a relatively small domestic market for Christmas trees. A majority of the trees sold in Saskatchewan are imported from eastern Canada, BC and. the northern U.S. states. The quality of imported trees ranges dramatically. Some trees on the market are of extremely poor quality and is affecting customers perceptive of a fresh Christmas tree.
There are many emerging trends that will affect the natural Christmas tree industry including: environmental concerns; tree safety; improved artificial trees; increased marketing efforts by established production areas; consumer dissatisfaction with currently available trees; and use of field-grade natural Christmas trees as "loss-leaders". The list is by no means complete and is always changing.
The largest production variable for Christmas tree growers is the unique weather conditions on the prairies. Our weather dictates the varieties and species of trees grown and changes in the management activities to counter summer droughts or excess rains and tough winter weather.
It is essential that growers pool their knowledge and work together to overcome the challenges. Much work in this regard is already underway on the prairies. It would be wise to talk to experienced Christmas tree growers who are selling or near to selling trees. Attend Christmas tree meetings, visit tree farms, and join the PCTGA.
The primary goals of the PCTGA is to promote real Christmas trees and ensure that growers get the information they need to succeed on all aspects of the business. Experienced growers have had to learn by making mistakes… mistakes that can be avoided by new growers. The strength of the Association comes from the voluntary efforts and co-operative spirit of its members. As growers, the members are partners in a very competitive industry. Success for all is easier if growers work together towards a common goal rather than against each other.