COURTLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — West Michigan Christmas tree farmers are thrilled with this year’s crop despite an extended drought that went late into the spring.
The owners of Hart Tree Farm near Rockford and Prince Nursery & Trees in Zeeland told News 8 the crop turned out great.
Growing Christmas trees runs in the family for Tom Hart — his father started Hart Tree Farm more than six decades ago.
“I love to see everybody come here,” Hart said. “We’ve had customers coming for 60 years and then they bring their kids.”
Hart Tree Farm has nearly 6,500 Christmas trees across its 120 acres. They come in several varieties: Fraser fir, balsam fir, Canaan fir, Douglas fir as well as pine and spruce.
Hart said growing Christmas trees is an extensive process — they can take 10 years to grow. The spring drought forced Hart to do extra irrigation work to ensure trees got the water they needed.
“It was a long time,” owner Tom Hart said about the spring drought. “It usually doesn’t last that long. It was a lot of long hours and nights moving irrigation around to keep it going so these trees would survive.”
Paul Prince, the owner of Prince Nursery & Trees, said the farm’s extensive irrigation operation helped save most of the crops.
“We’re putting wells in, we’re able to do it very efficiently,” Prince told News 8. “We are able to nurse them along. Because of the investment in irrigation, we have been able to mitigate the dry times.”
Mother Nature eventually turned around by October with more rain hitting West Michigan.
“Now that we’ve had a lot of rain this month, the trees have real good color and a lot of moisture in the tree,” Hart said. “When you cut a tree, it should hold up real well.”
Despite the solid crop, visitors can expect to pay slightly more this year. The farm’s six-to-eight foot trees will cost $5 more than last year. The bigger trees, between 9 feet and 12 feet tall, will cost up to $10 more.
Hart said he tried to keep things as cheap as possible, but production and labor costs surged. Essential parts became more expensive because of inflation.
“It’s a very labor-intensive crop to raise,” Hart said.
This year’s batch of trees is now just weeks away from lighting up homes around West Michigan. Hart Tree Farm opens to the public Nov. 18 and will continue to operate every day until mid-December. The exact closing date depends on how many trees are still available. Prince Nursery & Trees’ farm in West Olive, located at 10342 Buchanan St., opens Nov. 10.
Hart and Prince suggested purchasing a tree no sooner than the week before Thanksgiving.
“That way, the tree has a lot of moisture,” Hart said. “The sap and moisture in the tree will help prolong it.”