Many areas in Pennsylvania are compatible for Christmas tree production. In the past, many producers used their marginal land for tree production. This marginal land included hill sides, low (and possibly high moisture) areas, and soils that would not produce agronomic or horticultural crops well. These practices have diminished in recent years due to the use of tractors for planting, mowing and pesticide applications. It is not safe to operate equipment on steeper slopes and pesticide applications in areas with high water tables may cause contamination.
Another factor in Christmas tree production is that you will need to wait at least eight years for a return on your investment. Production costs that build over a period of time are harder to recoup than annual crops as the interest on investment compounds over the production period. You will also need to work in temperature extremes as you will prune and apply pesticides to the trees in mid-summer and harvest is in early winter.
It is best to develop your marketing plan before or very early after planting. Many service organizations sell Christmas trees before the Holidays as fund raising for the organization. If you are planning wholesale marketing, this may be a good option. You should contact them to determine their willingness to purchase from you. They may also have advice on which types of trees are the most popular in your area.
If you are planning a retail operation such as a cut-your-own or pre-cut sales, take note of other operations in your immediate area. Will the local market allow another operation? You will also be dealing directly with the public and if you have cut-your-own, your liability increases. Contact your insurance provider prior to beginning harvest to be sure you have adequate coverage.
Penn State University, Department of Entomology has an excellent web site with production information such as:
- Insect fact sheets
- Insect information
- An IPM Christmas Tree Production Manual
- Cultural information
- Scouting reports.
You should visit this site prior to beginning production to have a better understanding of Christmas tree production.
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