The number of growers who’re supplying fresh green Iowa-grown Christmas trees continues to drop. Iowa Christmas Tree Growers Association president, Gary Harman of Indianola, says as the trees grow older, so are the people who’re tending them.
“It’s like a lot of industries, our industry has a lot of mature citizens involved in it,” Harman says. Harman says many growers got into the business for a second income. He says many of the growers are now retired from the regular jobs, and at one time grew the trees along with their regular jobs.
Harman says those growers kept in the tree business after retiring, and as they get older and less able to do the work, they decided to give it up. Harman says in some cases the growers pass the tree business on, but many just close. Harman is one of the few who’ll pass the business on, as he says his 32-year-old son has been involved for years and plans to continue.
Harman says it’s a business that requires some patience to get to the pay off. Harmon says it can be a minimum of seven years and up to 15 years from the time a seedling is planted until the tree is harvested. He says that long wait period discourages a lot of people from getting into it.
Harmon says it’s a labor intensive business to manage the trees as they grow. Most growers still use the trees as a second income. Harmon says there are only a couple of growers that are full time farmers, the rest usually have a job in town and use the tree income to pay for their kid’s college or something else. The Iowa Department of Agriculture says there are just over 100 “choose and cut” Christmas tree farms in Iowa.