Virginia Christmas trees are a key part of holiday traditions

Published 5:33 pm Friday, December 3, 2021

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More than 10,000 acres of pine, spruce and fir trees are grown on 500 Virginia Christmas tree farms, and that’s good news for families whose holiday traditions include choosing a fresh Christmas tree.

Whether hand-cut or purchased from a local retailer, the state’s growers insist there’s nothing like the real thing. Their Virginia-grown Christmas trees illuminate homes statewide and brighten up living spaces from Ohio to Puerto Rico.

“Every local tree you can find will be sold this year,” predicted Ryan Clouse, president of the Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association and a grower with Clouse’s Pine Hill Farm in Frederick County, a choose-and-cut operation. “Already-tight supplies were further impacted by heat and fires in Oregon, which is the largest tree-producing state,” he said. “It’s best to come the first weekend after Thanksgiving to have the best selection of trees!”

Clouse’s Pine Hill Farm was established in 1977 when Ryan’s parents, Ron and Roberta Clouse, allowed FFA students to plant pine trees on their property for a project. The first crop of pines was harvested in 1984, and the family continues to plant 1,000 seedlings a year. About 15,000 spruce, fir and pine trees currently are growing on 20 acres.

“We like to see families coming back—sometimes generations of the same families—who are really plugged into the Christmas tradition,” Clouse said.

A crop that requires more than five years of cultivation is often harvested in a single weekend by families dedicated to the choose-and-cut tradition. Armed with saws, blankets, tarps and ropes, some of them line up at 9 a.m. on Black Friday to choose their trees.

Other families skip the saw and purchase fresh trees from local retailers. Many U.S. stores are supplied by wholesale growers like Bottomley Evergreens and Farms in Grayson County. Bottomley is Virginia’s largest Christmas tree farm and plants 1 million seedlings annually on 600 acres.

“This year we’ll cut around 600,000 (trees),” said Carlos Taylor, Bottomley’s Christmas tree manager. “They’ll go to Texas, parts of New Jersey and New York, Ohio, part of Florida and down to Puerto Rico.”

Virginia Christmas tree sales top $10 million annually, and the state is ranked seventh nationwide for harvest and production of fir, pine and spruce trees.

“And Fraser firs are the Cadillac,” Taylor said. “They grow better in the Blue Ridge Mountains than anywhere else. But you can’t pop a tree in the ground today and be ready to sell it this year.”

Workers hand-harvest most trees in the seventh year following a multi-season regimen of trimming and shaping. Cut trees are chilled for freshness prior to shipping.