Local Christmas tree farms are busy this time of year, helping customers pick the perfect tree for their home.
Along with being a holiday staple, Christmas trees are among the state’s most popular farm commodity.
“They’re not an easy crop. It takes approximately 11 years for a tree to reach ten, eleven feet tall,” said Diane Karabin, of Southington’s Karabin Farms.
During that time, the trees require regular pruning, monitoring for pests and soil testing and treatment.
Karabin is one of six Christmas tree farmers in Southington, the most common type of farm in the town, according to 2014 data from the state Department of Agriculture. The second most common is pepper farms.
The same is true in Meriden, Wallingford, and Cheshire, which have a total of 25 tree farms
There are 592 tree farms in Connecticut, making Christmas trees the fourth most grown crop, according to the data. Hay is the most common crop, with 1,277 farms, followed by 881 pepper farms and 669 pastures.
James Fazzone, a longtime Christmas tree farmer in Cheshire, said the state’s soil is ideal for growing trees.
He’s had a steady stream of customers buying Nordmann Firs, which he called the “latest and greatest” Christmas trees.
“It’s a good opportunity for the family to get together and enjoy the outdoors,” said Fazzone, who runs Connecticut Alpaca & Tree Farm. “A Christmas tree is a great tradition.”
“More and more people are buying real trees, they're becoming more environmentally friendly,” said Kathy Kogut, executive director of the Connecticut Christmas Tree Growers Association.
Tree farms also employ wreath-makers, performers and photographers, Kogut said.
“Land is local, labor is local...the money stays in the community,” said Dr. Rigoberto Lopez, director of the Zwick Center for Food and Resource Policy, who co-authored a study examining the statewide economic impact of agriculture.
According to the study, Christmas tree farms contribute between $10.3 to $11.6 million to the state’s economy annually. About $2.7 to $3.9 million goes towards wages for employees and subcontractors.
Lopez, who is also head of UCONN’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, said the study also found the farms are increasing. The economic impact of Christmas tree farms grew approximately 70% between 2007 and 2015.
Karabin said she looks forward to the rush of families starting around Thanksgiving.
“Families love to come out and walk through the grove and cut their tree,” she said. “It’s usually a happy time of the year for us.”