Written by Sara Lilkas and Tyler Blance
We’re proud to support farmers and producers of the Northeast throughout the whole year! Our Christmas trees are grown and harvested on farms in New York and Vermont: When it’s grown here, we get it here. We recently were able to talk with Richie Hourihan, our farmer at Cabot Christmas Tree Farm in Cabot, Vermont about everything from growing Christmas trees from seed to keeping them beautiful once they are decorated at home!
PC: How long does it take from seed for a tree to grow full-sized?
RH: It usually takes about 12-20 years from seed to grow a full-sized tree. When planting new trees we usually transplant trees that are already about 5 years old and 14 inches tall.
PC: When do you start cutting down trees for the Christmas season?
RH: I usually start cutting down trees the day after Halloween, however with the warmer weather this year we had to continually put off cutting down the trees. Every tree must go through 2-3 hard frosts or “killing frosts” before they’re ready for cutting and bring home. After 2-3 hard frosts the trees enter dormancy, when trees are cut in dormancy they last longer in household temperatures and hold onto their needles.
PC: How long did you have to wait to cut down trees this year as a result of the warmer temperatures?
RH: This year we started cutting trees down a few days before Thanksgiving, and I was able to start delivering them the day after Thanksgiving.
PC: How many new trees do you plant each year?
RH: About 3,000 new trees every year.
PC: What growing methods do you use for your Christmas trees?
RH: No chemicals, sprays or fertilizers are used. The farm is USDA GAP [Good Agricultural Procedures] Certified. GAP ensures safe, environmentally friendly growing practices, regardless of the crop. We voluntarily go through this audit to verify the produce and trees we grow are handled and stored in the safest way possible.
PC: What’s your favorite variety of tree to grow?
RH: Balsam fir. Balsam fir trees are indigenous to the area (since they are native to the area they grow fast than other varieties) and they hold up the longest once cut and put indoors. An added bonus to growing balsam fir trees is that the deer do not like to nibble on them unlike other varieties!
PC: What is your favorite part of growing Christmas Trees?
RH: My favorite part of growing Christmas trees takes place in the summer time. After a long day on the farm attending to the other crops [Richie also grows berries, corn, and other vegetables] is mowing in between the rows of trees. I go out after dinner when it’s still light out and everyone who works on the farm with me has gone home. Mowing in between the trees is very peaceful, quiet, and I have a beautiful view of the mountains.
PC: What are some tips you could offer for keeping a healthy tree during the holiday season?
RH: When you get your tree home, cut about an inch off the base. When the trees are first cut sap starts to bleed and forms a cement-like layer along the base of the tree preventing it from taking in any water.
PC: How often should you water your Christmas tree?
RH: You should check to make sure the base is full every one to two days. A tree can use up to a quart of water a day!
PC: How should trees be disposed of, once the holidays are over?
RH: I recommend checking to see if there are any local ordinances in place. Many towns recycle Christmas trees either into mulch to be used in gardens and parks or are used to make barriers to prevent soil erosion.
We would like to thank Richie Hourihan for being a partner with us and for taking the time to share his knowledge about harvesting trees. We love being able to provide locally grown products to our customers and that would not be possible without farmers like Richie.
From our family to yours, have a very Merry Christmas.
Tyler Blance- Produce Merchandising
It’s the holiday season, and many of our local growers are enjoying a well deserved break from the busy growing season. However, one of our growers, Richard Hourihan in Cabot, Vermont, is still growing strong! Richard’s farm is unique. He delivers fresh-picked produce in the summer and fall, and then delivers fresh-picked fir trees to us once the holiday season comes around.
I had the opportunity to talk a little with Mr. Hourihan about his farm and what he does for a living.
How long have you been a local grower with Price Chopper?
“I’ve been a proud Chopper Farmer since the early 2000’s.”
What’s your favorite crop to grow?
“My favorite thing in the world to grow is pumpkins.”
Tell us a little about your tree farm operation. How many acres of crops do you grow?
“I grow 60 acres of fir trees and then 130 acres of vegetables. The tree business was how I started out. I only grow balsam fir trees- they’re the best you can get and they’re beautiful. Our trees are chemical-free and grown naturally without fertilizer or sprays.”
What’s the best part of doing what you do?
“For me, the best part is the view. My farm is located on top of a big hill, and the view is breathtaking. I like to sit out here early in the morning, listen to the radio and enjoy the view around me.”
Operating a summer/fall vegetable farm and a tree farm makes for a long farming season. What’s your favorite time of the year?
“The day when my season’s over- just kidding! I like spring, when I’m getting ready to plant everything and planning what I’m going to grow in the coming season for places like Price Chopper. I like pulling out my seed catalog!”
We’re proud to support growers like Richard and his family, from sweet corn to acorn squash, all the way to fir trees in December. If you happen to be in the St. Johnsbury, VT area, check out the Cabot Smith Farm fir trees at our St. Johnsbury store on Memorial Drive!