Homesteading, Gardening, and Off-Grid Living

How to Start a Christmas Tree Farm

By: Zac Friedman

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Christmas trees can be an incredibly profitable crop for small acreage farms. This low-maintenance crop is ideal for someone who wants to earn a bit of extra income from their land but doesn’t have much time to spare. By dividing up your land and planting new trees every year, you can produce reliable income year after year. This guide outlines how to start a Christmas tree farm, step-by-step.

In this guide, I’ll cover expenses, profitability, labor and time requirements, how to sell your trees, permits and licensing, basic business planning, and more. I’ll also list a few pros and cons to help you decide whether or not Christmas tree farming is the right choice for you.

How to Start a Christmas Tree Farm: Growing Christmas Trees for Profit pin

How to Start a Christmas Tree Farm

1. Make a business plan. Research tree species, how much Christmas trees sell for in your area, and costs. 

2. Choose a species of tree to grow

3. Acquire and prepare land

4. Purchase and plant seedlings

5. Weed and shape the trees as they grow

6. Wait 6-8 years for the trees to reach 5-7 feet tall

7. Advertise your Christmas trees

8. Harvest and sell your Christmas trees

A Bit of Info About Christmas Tree Farms

Every holiday season, people decorate their homes and businesses with Christmas trees as well as wreaths and garland. Christmas tree farms grow and sell evergreen trees specifically for use as Christmas trees. These are preferred by those who enjoy decorating with real trees as opposed to artificial trees. At any given time, there are around 350 million Christmas trees growing on farms across the United States.

A wide variety of fir, pine, spruce, Cyprus, and cedar species are grown for Christmas trees. The most popular types of Christmas trees in the United States include Balsam fir, Douglas fir, Frasier fir, noble fir, Virginia pine, Scotch pine, and Eastern White pine. Other species are also available. In the United Kingdom and much of Europe, Nordmann fir, Norway spruce, and Serbian spruce are popular Christmas Trees.  

The ideal terrain for a Christmas tree farm is flat or gently rolling. The land should also be free of excess debris or undergrowth. A Christmas tree farm could range in size from 1 acre to several dozen acres. 

A Christmas tree farm

Different tree species prefer different soil textures. Pine trees prefer sandier soil while fir and spruce prefer a more loamy soil. Christmas trees can grow in most climates. Early snow can make harvest difficult. The only climate that isn’t ideal is an extremely hot climate. The heat can cause damage. In the United States, most Christmas trees are grown on farms in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and the Pacific Northwest.

Christmas trees are harvested in a number of ways. Most commonly, the trees are cut down, transported to cities, and sold on Christmas tree lots. Some farms open to the public and allow people to choose and cut their own trees. A new trend that is becoming increasingly popular is to grow trees in pots and sell living trees. These can be reused for multiple years.

A Christmas tree

Which Type of Christmas Trees Should I Grow?

The best species of Christmas tree to grow depends on a number of factors including the climate where you live, the quality of your soil, and the local market. Some species will grow better than others on your land. Your customers may also prefer a specific species. Before planting trees, you’ll want to do a bit of research. You want to choose a tree that will be fast and easy to grow and sell.

The best-selling species of Christmas trees grown in the United States include Douglas fir, Scots pine, Balsam fir, Noble fir, Fraser Fur, Virginia pine, and Eastern white pine. A number of other species are also grown. For example, in Florida, spruce pine and sand pine are commonly grown. In Alabama, redcedar, Leyland cypress, and Arizona cypress are grown. In Canada, white spruce, white pine, blue spruce, and Fraser fir are commonly grown.  Over in the UK, Nordmann fir and Norway spruce are the best sellers. In Europe, Norway spruce is the most popular species of Christmas tree.

Douglas fir and Noble fir are the most common species of Christmas trees grown in the U.S. These are commonly grown in the country’s biggest Christmas tree-producing region, the Pacific Northwest. These trees represent over 90% of the trees grown in the states of Washington and Oregon.

Douglas fir trees are popular because they have a nice natural cone shape. They require minimal shearing. They also tend to hold their needles well after harvest. Douglas fir trees grow well in a mild climate. They like soil that drains quickly.  

Scots pine (sometimes called Scotch pine), is a popular choice among Christmas tree farmers due to its quick growth rate and versatility. Scots pine can grow in a wide range of climates and soil textures. It can also tolerate drought better than other species due to its deep tap root. These trees are commonly grown in the Canadian province of Ontario.

One drawback to growing Scots pine Christmas trees is that they need to be sheared more frequently than other species. If you neglect them, they won’t develop a desirable cone shape. Poorly shaped trees are less valuable and harder to sell.

Fraser fir is often considered to be the highest quality and most valuable species of Christmas tree. In fact, they are often referred to as ‘the Cadillac of Christmas trees.” These are commonly grown in the Appalachian mountains region. Particularly in North Carolina. They are also grown in parts of Canada. One drawback to growing Fraser fir trees is that they only grow well on high-quality farmland. They are a bit picky.

Balsam fir is a popular species in the northeastern United States as well as much of Canada. These trees grow well in regions that experience cold winters and cool summers. One nice feature of Balsam fir trees is that they grow in a nice cone shape. These trees require very little shearing as a result. They are natural Christmas trees.

Christmas tree farm in the winter

How to Grow Christmas Trees

Christmas trees take anywhere from 4-15 years to grow from the time they are planted until they are ready to harvest. The average growth time for a Christmas tree is 7-8 years. They grow at a rate of about 1 foot per year. The exact grow time depends on a number of factors including the species of tree, whether you plant seeds or seedlings, soil conditions, and the climate you’re growing in.

Most Christmas tree farmers buy their trees as seedlings or transplants. A transplant is a seedling that has been transplanted from one pot or bed to another. This is done to stimulate root growth. Christmas tree seedlings and transplants can be purchased from wholesale growers that specialize in conifers.

Most Christmas trees are harvested when they measure 5-7 feet tall. This is the most popular size range. Over 90% of Christmas trees sold fall in this size range.

Christmas trees are planted in the spring. They are trimmed in the summer. They are harvested in the winter. 

Growing from Seed Vs Planting Seedlings

It is also possible to grow Christmas trees from seeds. The benefit of this is that seeds are cheaper than seedlings. The drawback is that growing trees from seeds extends the grow time by about 2 years. 

Buying seedlings ends up costing less because you can produce more trees on your land in the long run. This is possible because each tree can be harvested around 2 years sooner. The extra trees that you produce more than make up for the extra cost of seedlings.

Saplings in the snow

How to Plant Christmas Trees

Before you plant your Christmas trees, you’ll have to prepare your land. This involves cleaning, ripping, and disking up the soil. This loosens up the soil so it’s soft enough to plant in. After the soil is prepared, you can plant your Christmas tree seedlings. You should prepare your land and plant your trees in the spring.

Christmas trees should be planted in rows. Most growers leave an access row every 12-15 rows. This makes it easier to load trees after harvest. You can simply drive a truck in and load the trees up. The access road also makes it easier to maintain your trees. You can easily drive to your trees with your lawnmower and weeding and shaping tools.

Most species of Christmas trees are planted 5 feet apart with 5 feet between each row. Planting on a 5’ x 5’ grid with an access row every 12-15 rows allows you to grow up to 1500 trees per acre.

This spacing allows plenty of room for sunlight to reach the trees so they grow straight and full. If the trees are grown too close together, they won’t get enough sunlight and they will grow crooked or will have bare spots without any needles. You don’t want this.

Some tree species need a bit more space than others. Some farmers leave up to 8 feet of space between trees. This is a bit less efficient but it can help the trees grow fuller. 

In order to produce a steady and reliable income with a Christmas tree farm, you’ll want to plant a new crop of trees each year in one portion of your land. This way, you have a fresh crop of trees to sell every year.  For example, when starting a Christmas tree farm, you might divide your land into 8 sections and plant trees on 1/8 of their available space per year for the first 8 years. That’s about 200 new trees per acre each year. After 8 years, you can start harvesting your first crop of Christmas trees. These will be the first crop you planted 8 years ago.

Staggering tree planting over the course of 8 years ensures that will generate a stable and reliable income once it’s established. You’ll have a new crop of trees to harvest every year

By planting this way, you’ll have a stable crop of around 200 trees per acre to sell per year. After you harvest the oldest crop, you can re-plant the empty space with new seedlings. After 8 more years, you’ll harvest that same patch again. 

You don’t want to plant Christmas trees on all of your land at the same time. The reason is that you would only have one harvest every 8 years. Nobody wants to wait that long between harvests. Your income would be far too unstable. You would also have too many trees to sell at once. You couldn’t develop loyal a customer base either.

Remember, during the first 8 years, your Christmas trees won’t produce any income. This is a slow-growing crop. You’ll have to budget for 8 years with no income when starting your Christmas tree farm. 

During this time, you’ll have to spend time and money on weed control and mowing. You’ll also have to buy and plant a new crop of seedlings every year. After your trees become around 4 years old, you’ll also have to start shearing them once in a while to ensure they grow in a nice cone shape.

This is the biggest drawback of Christmas tree farming. It takes a long time to develop an established farm. 

Maintaining a Christmas Tree Farm

Christmas trees are one of the easiest crops to maintain. After the trees are planted in the spring, pretty much all you need to do is control the weeds between the trees and shape the trees.

There are a few ways to tackle weed control. The cheapest and easiest option is to spot treat. You can use a mower to mow the weeds down as they grow. You can also treat your land with herbicidal chemicals such as Roundup. You’ll have to weed during the late spring, summer, and early fall.

After your trees reach 3-4 years old, you’ll have to start pruning and shearing. Most species of Christmas trees need to be sheared once per year to ensure that they have a nice cone shape when they’re ready to harvest. This should be done during the late spring or early summer.

Harvesting Christmas Trees

When your trees reach a height of 5-7 feet tall, they are ready for harvest. For most species, this will be 7-8 years after you plant the seedlings. Christmas trees should be harvested in late fall and early winter, right before you are ready to sell them. The fresher the trees, the better.

You can harvest your trees with a chainsaw. Cut them down at the base and wrap them up for transport. Of course, if you’re operating a u-cut farm, you won’t harvest the trees all at once. You’ll cut them one at a time for your customers after they select which tree they want. On some farms, customers cut their own trees.

How to Sell Christmas Trees

There are a few ways to sell your Christmas trees. You can open a Christmas tree lot in your city and sell your own trees. In this case, you would rent space for about a month and a half, set up shop, advertise, and sell your trees to the general public. This is the most common and most profitable option. Individuals will pay full retail price (usually $50-$80 per tree.)

A Christmas tree lot

You can also open a u-cut or cut-your-own style lot. In this case, your customers come to your Christmas tree farm, select a tree, and cut it down themselves. Alternatively, you could cut the tree down for the customer after they select the one they like. After cutting the tree, you can wrap it up and help the customer load the tree on their vehicle. This is popular among families. People make a day out of driving to your farm and choosing their tree.

Generally, selling pre-cut trees is a bit more profitable than selling u-cut. You can sell a pre-cut tree for $10-$20 more than a u-cut tree. Selling trees on a lot is also easier because you can cut the trees and transport them all at once. This way, all of your trees are right there on the lot and ready to go. This allows you to sell more trees faster and with less effort. On average, you can charge $30-$65 for u-cut trees. 

Another option is to sell your trees in to a wholesaler or sell them in bulk to someone who operates their own Christmas tree lot but doesn’t grow their own trees. In this case, you harvest all of your trees and sell them all to one buyer. This is the easiest option because you’re only dealing with one buyer. This is also the least profitable way to sell your trees. On average, wholesalers pay 1/3 of retail price. When selling wholesale you may only be able to get $10-$30 per tree.

A Note About Advertising Christmas Trees

If you’re selling your trees to the general public on a Christmas tree lot or as u-cut directly from your land, you’ll need to do some advertising. A few ways to advertise Christmas trees include:

  • Signs and banners- At your Christmas tree lot or on your farm, you’ll want to post signs and banners so people know that you’re operating a business. You can have these signs professionally designed and printed or paint them yourself. Make sure they’re big enough that people can read them from the road as they drive by.
  • Run ads- You can efficiently target potential customers by advertising online. Social media advertisements on Facebook and Instagram are particularly valuable. You can also run ads on Google so your business shows up near the top of the page when people search for Christmas trees. Another good place to advertise is Craigslist. You may also consider advertising in print in your local newspaper.
  • Flyers- Design and Print out flyers and post them in various places around your city. For example, you can attach flyers to bulletin boards and telephone poles. You could ask local businesses if you could post a flyer on their window. You can design flyers yourself or hire a graphic designer.
  • Coupons- Print out coupons or write a coupon code on your online ads and flyers. Offer a discount to anyone who brings in a coupon or mentions the coupon code. For example, you could offer 10% off or throw in a free Christmas ornament with the coupon.
  • Word of mouth- You could offer discounts to repeat customers or friends and family of your customers.
  • Register your business- Some regions have a farming organizations that maintain a Christmas tree farm directory. This would be a good way to connect with wholesalers.
  • Business website- You’ll want to create a website for your business. Here, you can include general information about your business including the location and directions, pricing, and the history of your business.

Legal Requirements to Open a Christmas Tree Farm

Opening a small Christmas tree farm is pretty straightforward. That said, there is a bit of red tape to deal with. A few legal requirements to consider before opening your Christmas tree farm include:

  • Licenses and permits- In most jurisdictions, all you’ll need to do is get a business license. You’ll want to check with your city to see which licenses you need. For example, in much of the U.S., you’ll need both a state and city business license.
  • Sales tax- You may need to collect sales tax from your customers. You will pay this tax to your local government.
  • Safety regulations- If you hire employees, you may need to follow a certain set of safety regulations. For example, in the U.S., you’ll have to follow OSHA regulations.
  • Insurance- If you have employees, you may need worker’s compensation insurance. This protects you if someone gets injured while working on your farm. You may also need general liability insurance. This could cover you if someone injures themselves on your farm. You might want to insure your farm itself. This could protect you if a forest fire burns your trees down.
  • Accounting and taxes- You’ll need to keep track of your business finances so you can pay appropriate income tax on your earnings. Exactly how you do this depends on how you structure your business. Your business structure can play a role in how much tax you have to pay. Most Christmas tree farms are probably structured as an LLC.
A Christmas tree farm

How Much Can a Christmas Tree Farm Earn?

Before you grow any Christmas trees, you’ll want to calculate how much profit you could potentially make. This will help you determine if Christmas tree farming is worth your time. 

In order to do this, you’ll need to figure out how much money you can earn selling your Christmas trees and what your expenses will be.

How Much Do Christmas Trees Sell For?

The price you can get out of your trees depends on a number of factors including the market where you live, whether you pre-cut your trees or allow customers to cut their own, the species of trees you grow, the size of the trees, how fresh and healthy the trees are, and more. 

Generally, pre-cut trees sell for more than u-cut. Larger trees can sell for more than smaller trees. Healthy and fresh cone-shaped trees sell for more than older trees with sparse needles.

The average pre-cut Christmas tree sells for around $80. The average U-cut tree sells for around $60. If you grow trees on 1 acre of land and produce 200 trees per year, you could gross $16,000 per year if you cut them and sell them all by yourself. If you operate a U-cut farm, you could expect to gross around $12,000.

Another option is to harvest your trees and then sell them all wholesale. On average, a 5’-7’ tall Christmas tree can sell for around $20 wholesale or around 1/3 of the price of retail trees. You could gross around $4000 per year per acre if you only sold wholesale. As you can see this doesn’t bring in quite as much money. Selling wholesale makes more sense if you operate a larger farm and grow 5-20+ acres of Christmas trees.

A Christmas tree lot

Costs To Start and Maintain a Christmas Tree Farm

Starting a Christmas tree farm is fairly inexpensive. The main costs involved include acquiring land, preparing and maintaining the land, and buying seedlings.

Cost of Land

If you don’t already have land, you’ll have to acquire some. At a minimum, you’ll need 1 acre to make Christmas tree farming worthwhile. Most Christmas tree farms are 10-20 acres in size.

Land costs vary widely. In the United States, the average cost of an acre of farmland is around $4400. Near cities and in expensive regions, prices are significantly higher. You can lower your land cost by buying land in a rural area far from civilization. Alternatively, you could rent land.

Another option is to enter a sharecropping agreement with a landowner. In this case, you wouldn’t pay for the land upfront. Instead, you would split your profits with the landowner. A 50/50 agreement is common in sharecropping. This means both you and the landowner each keep 50% of the profits of what you grow on the land. The landowner provides the land and you, the grower, provide the knowledge and labor. In a sharecropping agreement, costs are often split 50/50 as well. 

The land needs to be of decent quality as well. Christmas trees grow best on rolling land with decent soil quality. The land needs to get enough rain as well. It can’t be too hot or too cold. Christmas trees aren’t too picky. Suitable land exists in every U.S. state and Canadian province.

Cost of Seedlings

Your next largest expense will be buying seedlings. Christmas tree seedlings cost $0.35 each on average. You’ll need to buy around 200 seedlings per acre per year if you use the planting method outlined above. That’s about $70 per acre.

Remember, this is a recurring expense. You’ll have to replace the trees you harvested with new seedlings every year. If you’re farming 10 acres, you’ll be spending around $700 per year on seedlings. During the first 8 years while your trees are growing, you won’t have any income coming in. It’s important to budget for new seedlings every year.

Cost of Preparing and Maintaining the Land

Before you plant your seedlings, you’ll have to prepare the land. This involves cleaning your land up and ripping and disking up the soil. If you don’t own a tractor, you’ll have to hire someone to do this. You should be able to find a local farmer who offers this service. Most will rip and disc 10 acres for $500 or 20 acres for $1000. 

After the land is prepared, you’re ready to plant your seedlings. Expenses for maintaining a Christmas tree farm are low. The biggest maintenance expense is weeding between the trees. The cheapest option is to spot weed by hand or with a weed whip or mower. The cost of fuel and your tools is your only expense in this case. You could also purchase and spray herbicide. Glyphosate is a popular option. It will cost around $25-$100 per acre to spray your land with weed killer. You could save money by spot-treating your land with herbicide.

Another expense is shearing your trees. This is necessary so your trees grow into a desirable cone shape. Most Christmas tree farmers use simple hand tools such as hand clippers and a shearing knife to shear their trees. You can buy these tools for less than $50.

Advertising Expense

You will need to advertise your Christmas tree farm. Advertising costs could include banners and signs, online ads, flyers, and coupons. You may also need to hire a graphic designer to design your signs and ads for you.

How much you need to spend on advertising depends on the location of your lot and how much competition you’re dealing with. You’ll probably want to budget at least a few hundred dollars for advertising. You can use the same banners and signs for several years if you take care of them. You can save money by painting your own. You’ll want to run new online ads every year and print out new flyers and coupons every year.

Labor Costs of a Christmas Tree Farm

On a small Christmas tree farm, you could perform all of the planting, maintenance, harvest, and sales by yourself. An experienced tree planter can plant over 1000 trees in a day. It doesn’t take much time to weed and shear your trees. 

Harvesting and selling your trees would be a full-time job for around a month per year. Some farmers hire laborers during the Christmas season to help harvest, transport, and sell the trees.

On a larger farm, you might have to hire a couple of employees to help with maintenance. Day laborers usually work for $20 per hour or around $160 per day in the U.S. On a large farm, you may only need to hire laborers for a couple of months per year to help with weeding, shearing, harvest, transport, and sales. The larger the farm, the more labor you’ll need.

Renting a lot to sell the trees

If you plan to sell pre-cut trees directly to your customers, you will have to rent a lot in a city where you can sell them. The cost of renting a lot will vary widely depending on where you live. 

In a smaller city, it might cost just a few hundred dollars. In a large city, it could cost a few thousand. You will only have to rent the lot for around 6 weeks. 

Christmas Tree Farm Profitability: How Much Can I Earn?

Most Christmas tree lots profit somewhere around $15,000-$20,000 per year. A typical Christmas tree lot in a decent location can sell anywhere from 500-1000 trees. Having a good location is crucial in this business.

For new Christmas tree farmers, it’s best to start with 1-2 lots. Once you learn the business, you can expand. If you were to operate two well-located lots, you could profit $30,000-$40,000 per year if you sold 1000-2000 trees.

Assuming you produce 200 trees per acre per year, you could bring in $10,000-15,000 in revenue per acre if you sell the trees for $50-$75 each. If you sell the trees wholesale for $10-$15 each, you may bring in $2000-$3000 in revenue. After taking expenses into consideration, you may profit anywhere from $1500-$9,000 per acre.

Your exact profitability depends on a number of factors including the type of trees you grow, how you sell your trees, the quality of your trees, and how much of the work you perform yourself. For example, if you sell your own trees on your own lot you’ll earn more than if you sell your trees wholesale. You’ll also earn more if you open your own retail lot and sell the trees that you harvested yourself rather than running a U-cut lot.

Your local market also plays a big role in your profitability. In some areas, trees sell for as little as $30-$40. In other areas, you might be able to get $80-$100 per tree. Christmas tree prices also vary from year to year due to supply and demand. If too many trees were planted 6-8 years ago, supplies will be high and the price per tree will decrease. If there is a shortage of trees, prices increase. This can play a big role in your profitability from year to year.

Sometimes you can only sell trees for $10 wholesale or $30 retail. In this case, your profits will be low. Other times, you can sell trees for $20-$25 wholesale or $50-$80 retail. In this case, profits will be high. Margins vary by year and location.

In most areas, there is a ceiling to the profitability of a Christmas tree farm. This is the case because demand is limited in any one area. These days, many families use artificial trees. Some don’t have a Christmas tree at all. There is also competition to consider.

Tips for Increasing Profits on Your Christmas Tree Farm

The best way to maximize your profits is to sell your own trees on your own lot. This is more profitable than offering a choose-and-cut or u-cut or selling them to a wholesaler. 

There are a number of ways to increase profits on your Christmas tree farm. Probably the easiest option is to sell wreaths, garland, and greens. You can make these from trees that grew cooked, lopsided, or just ugly.

Wreaths, in particular, are highly profitable. A quality fresh wreath can sell for as much as $100. Someone who is skilled in crafts could make 6-8 wreaths per hour. You can make many wreaths with one tree. These can be sold locally or sold online and shipped. Selling wreaths can increase your profits substantially.

A Christmas wreath
Selling fresh wreaths is a great way to increase your profits. They can be sold locally or online and shipped all over the country.

Another way to increase profits is to sell some extra large Christmas trees. These can sell for much more than standard-sized trees. A local business may pay several hundred dollars for a 10-20 foot tall Christmas tree. If you can sell a handful of these per year, you can substantially increase your profits. These extra tall trees will take 10+ years to grow. You might choose to leave a few trees from each harvest so you always have extra tall trees to offer. You could harvest them upon request so they don’t go to waste if you can’t sell them.

Another option is to grow other crops on your farm. For example, you could grow a pumpkin patch on one section of your land. You could offer a discount on a Christmas tree to everyone who buys a pumpkin. You could bring back some return customers this way. There are plenty of other crops you could grow alongside Christmas trees. For more ideas, check out my guide to the most profitable crops.

You could also sell other products on your farm. For example, if you operate a U-cut farm, you could make and sell Christmas ornaments. Depending on the regulations and zoning where you live, you may be able to open a stand that sells hot chocolate, coffee, and snacks. 

Another potential idea would be to start a professional Christmas decorating business and advertise it to your customers. You could also offer delivery service for your trees.

It may be possible to turn your Christmas tree farm into an experience. For example, if you live in a snowy area, you may be able to offer sleigh rides or tours around your farm. You may be able to convert your farm into a venue for company Christmas parties, weddings, etc. 

Another option is to rent living trees. You can grow Christmas trees in pots and rent them out then pick them up again after the holiday is over. You can rent out the same tree year after year. It’s possible to rent a living tree out for $50-$90 per year. If you do this, it’s best to offer a range of sizes. You could offer 3, 4, 5, and 6 foot trees. 

Some of these ideas will require that you hire employees. Some may be profitable and some may not. There may also be some extra investment involved. The idea is that it is possible to expand your Christmas tree business and increase profits.

A Note About Competition

Growing Christmas trees is a fairly competitive business. Christmas trees are grown in every U.S. state. The market is saturated in some areas. 

Think about how many places you see Christmas trees being sold during the holiday season. Chances are, your local supermarket, hardware store, and big box store all sell Christmas trees. There are also independent lots scattered around most cities.

It’s a good idea to research your competition. Before you open your first Christmas tree lot, visit a few competitors to see how they operate. Check their prices. Check the species of trees they offer and the quality of their trees. Consider the location of their lots. See what other services they offer. For example, how do they wrap and pack the trees for transportation? See how they store their trees. This should give you some ideas. Think about how you can provide better customer service and a better quality product.

It’s also important to be aware that most people buy their Christmas tree within 2-3 miles from their home. 

A Few Frequently Asked Questions About Christmas Tree Farming

A decorated Christmas tree in a home

1. How Much Land is Needed to Start a Christmas Tree Farm?

At a minimum, you’ll need 1 acre to make Christmas tree farming worth your time. If you just want to earn a few thousand dollars of side income, 1-2 acres is ideal. If you’re trying to make a full time living out of Christmas tree farming, you’ll probably need 10-20 acres.

You’ll also want to think about how many trees you can sell in your area. You can grow around 1500 trees per acre. On a 20 acre patch, that’s 30,000 trees. If they each take 8 years to grow, you’ll have 3750 trees to sell per year. Can you sell that many trees in your area?

Before you start your Christmas tree farm, you’ll want to do some market research to see how many trees you need to grow to earn your desired level of income. You’ll also want to search for buyers to see how many trees you can sell. A good business plan can also help you determine how much land you need to achieve your desired level of income. 

2. Where is the Best Place to Start a Christmas Tree Farm?

Christmas trees are grown in every U.S. state and Canadian Province. In the U.S, the Pacific Northwest produces the most Christmas trees. Particularly Oregon. North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin also produce large numbers of Christmas Trees. 

Christmas trees are also grown across most of western and central Europe. In Europe, Germany produces the most Christmas trees followed by France, Belgium, and Great Britain. 

Basically, you can start a Christmas tree farm just about anywhere that there is a demand for Christmas trees. Most Christmas trees are sold near where they’re grown. They are not transported long distances. 

3. How Long Does It Take to Grow a Christmas Tree

Most species of Christmas trees take 6-8 years to grow from seedlings to a marketable height of 5-7 feet. From seeds, Christmas trees take 8-10 years to grow to a marketable height. 

The exact grow time depends on the tree species. Some grow faster than others. The climate can also affect the growth rate. Christmas trees are planted in the spring.

4. How Profitable is Christmas Tree Farming?

If you grow your own trees and sell them on your own Christmas tree lot, you can expect to profit $15,000-$20,000 per lot per year. The average Christmas tree lot sells 500-1000 trees.

A Christmas tree farm can bring in a revenue of $12,000-$15,000 per acre if you sell your own trees at retail prices. If you sell your trees wholesale, you can bring in $2,000-$5000 per acre. This is assuming you harvest 200 trees per acre per year.

An efficiently operating Christmas tree farm could profit $10,000 per acre per year under ideal conditions. This is assuming you grow your own trees and sell them on your own lot at retail prices.

If you sell your trees wholesale, you’ll probably earn closer to $4000 per acre. 

5. Is a Christmas Tree Farm a Good Investment?

For the right person, yes. Christmas tree farms are profitable. Startup costs are low. They also require little maintenance. Christmas trees can also grow on land that is less ideal. You also only have to worry about selling your product for around one month per year. 

Christmas Tree Farming Pros

  • Growing Christmas trees is very environmentally friendly- Trees take in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. This helps to reduce the effects of global warming. They also provide a habitat for animals. Trees can also help to reduce erosion by improving soil stability and reducing runoff. 
  • Christmas trees are a seasonal item- You only have to bother with selling your trees for around 1 month per year. This makes Christmas trees a great crop for someone who doesn’t like dealing with the public.
  • Low maintenance- Pretty much all you have to do to maintain a Christmas tree farm is mow down the weeds around the trees. After the trees are around 3-4 years old, you’ll have to start shearing them into a cone shape once every year or so.
  • Christmas trees are a nice looking crop- They look beautiful growing on your property. You’re basically growing a forest. They also smell nice.
  • You don’t need much land to grow Christmas trees- You can run a profitable Christmas tree farm with just 1-5 acres of land. With this amount of land, you won’t earn a full-time income but you will make some nice side money.
  • Easy and affordable startup- You don’t need a bunch of expensive farm equipment to start or maintain a Christmas tree farm. Pretty much all you’ll need is a sprayer to spread herbicide clippers to shear trees, and a chainsaw to harvest trees.
  • Christmas tree farming is profitable- A small Christmas tree farm can bring in $10,000-$20,000 per year.
  • It’s festive- If you love the Christmas season, you may really enjoy growing Christmas trees. It will feel like Christmas year-round while you’re maintaining your trees. By supplying the tree, you help brighten up other people’s Christmas.
  • Real Christmas tree demand is increasing- Artificial tree demand appears to have peaked. Over the past few years demand for real trees has been increasing. If this trend continues, your trees could become more and more valuable until supply catches up.
  • Christmas trees can be grown on land that can’t be used for other types of crops- For example, you can grow Christmas trees on land that is too rocky or steep for more traditional crops. 

Christmas Tree Farming Cons

  • You will only earn money for around a month per year- Most people buy their Christmas tree between mid-November and mid-December. You can make a good profit during that time but you’ll have to budget yourself well if you need to use that money to cover expenses during the off-season.
  • Christmas trees take a long time to mature- It takes around 8 years for your first trees to grow large enough to harvest. Many people don’t want to tie up their land for this much time. It’s also a long time to have to wait before you start making any money. 
  • You’ll be busy during the holiday season- Christmas tree farming takes very little time during most of the year. For a few weeks during the holidays, it turns into a full-time job. You’ll have to harvest your trees, load them, transport them, and sell them. You’ll also have to deal with organizing and setting up your Christmas tree lot. If you operate a U-cut farm, you’ll have to deal with customers coming to your land. It’s a big job.
  • Christmas trees aren’t the most profitable crop- A crop of Christmas trees ties up your land for around 8 years. That’s a long time. There are much more efficient ways to use your land than growing if your only goal is to maximize profit. 
  • Not everybody needs Christmas trees- Real Christmas trees are a kind of luxury item. Many families use artificial trees instead. Some families don’t celebrate Christmas. Some families simply do without a tree. Particularly when they’re on a budget. During an economic downturn, I imagine real Christmas tree sales would decline. A Christmas tree is not something that people need in order to survive.

Why Start a Christmas Tree Farm?

There are a number of reasons you might want to grow Christmas trees. Maybe you have some land that’s not being used. Maybe you love the Christmas season. Or maybe you just want to earn a bit of extra income on the side. Christmas trees are an excellent crop for a number of reasons.

The main benefit of Christmas tree farming is that trees require little maintenance. After the seedlings have been planted, pretty much all you have to do is mow to keep the weeds down. Once every year or so, the trees need to be sheared to help them develop a desirable cone shape. The minimal maintenance makes Christmas trees an excellent crop for someone who doesn’t have much spare time.

A single person can maintain a small Christmas tree farm for most of the year. During the holidays, they may want to hire someone to help with harvesting and selling the trees.

Another benefit of farming Christmas trees is that you only have to deal with harvesting and selling for around 1 month per year. Most trees are sold between mid-November and mid-December. Selling Christmas trees is not a year-round commitment.

Christmas tree farming can also be surprisingly profitable. It’s possible to earn as much as $10,000-$15,000 per acre if you sell your own trees on your own lot. 

Christmas trees are also in high demand. 25-30 million real Christmas trees are sold in the United States every year according to Statista. Even though artificial trees are widely available, demand for real trees remains stable. In some regions, artificial trees have fallen out of style. Many families prefer the real thing.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, Christmas trees can be a profitable crop. They are also easy to grow. After planting, all you have to do is weed between your trees and prune them once per year. Startup costs are low as well. The only major recurring cost is seedlings.

Another beautiful feature of Christmas tree farming is that it is a seasonal business. You only have to deal with selling your trees for around 1 month per year. This makes Christmas trees an ideal crop for someone who doesn’t have much spare time on their hands.

The main drawback is that Christmas trees aren’t the most profitable crop. If you’re trying to maximize your income, there are better ways to use your land. 

I hope this guide has helped you decide whether or not Christmas trees are the right crop to grow on your small farm or homestead.

Do you grow Christmas trees? Share your experience and tips in the comments below!

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