The president of the Iowa Christmas Tree Growers Association says this year’s drought has made it tougher on growers statewide, but he says that’s not the only threat that keeps growers busy. Bob Moulds grows trees near Fairbank in northeast Iowa and he says keeping deer herds from eating up the profits is on ongoing issue.
“Two years ago when the spring melt came and the deer were out in the fields, in a one-and-a-half-mile radius I counted 425 deer,” Moulds says. “We put deer repellent on our little trees and then we have figured out about the only way (to prevent damage) is to feed the deer.”
Moulds has set up feed stations to satisfy the deer and keep them away from trees.
“Once the snows come and they have difficulty browsing, we feed ’em cracked corn and distillers grain,” Moulds says.
He has spent as much as $1499 on the feed, but he says that is cheaper than trying to fence in the large area where the trees are grown.
The drought added to the deer troubles this year, as Moulds says he lost around half of the 3000 new seedlings he planted. The trees planted this year won’t mature for about seven years, so Moulds will try to catch up for the ones lost.
“We’ll plant about 50 percent more — you can only plug a hole so much. If we only have one year of drought and the varying growth rate of trees, you can pretty well plug it if you put enough seedlings in,” Moulds says. “If you have two or more years of drought, then it gets more and more difficult to fill that gap seven to eight years from now.”
Moulds’ son also grows trees near Janesville, and he lost some 10,000 seedlings this year to the drought. The state Ag Department says there are just over 100 Christmas tree farms in Iowa producing around 39,000 trees annually.