RICHMOND, Va. — Two trees in a white pick-up truck came all the way from Page County to Richmond. It was a special delivery for Governor Ralph Northam and First Lady Pamela Northam before Santa Claus comes to the Capitol.
From his green tie to his day to day job, Dave Thomas is a Christmas tree guy.
“I went to school for forestry and there was a fellow who, near Harrisonburg, had a Christmas tree farm… At the time, he was getting up there in age and he said he would probably be retiring before long,” Thomas said. “If you do, let me know I might be interested.”
Thirty years later, Thomas is still out on the land taking care of 10,000 trees. From saplings to 8-footers.
“There’s a lot of work that goes into taking care of Christmas trees,” he said.
Thomas and his family are gearing up for their busiest weekend of the year, the first one in December.
“It depends on the weather. Today’s not a great day to pick a tree and cut it down,” Thomas said.
The rain poured as Thomas helped pick up the tree for the Northam’s. It’s been a wet season all around. There’s been about 5 feet of rain so far this year in Richmond, according to the National Weather Service. Some areas saw higher amounts.
“The rain really with the saturated ground made working very difficult, scheduling work very difficult for a lot of farmers just trying to get into the fields,” John Carroll, the Vice President of the Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association, said. Carroll’s family runs Claybrooke Farm in Louisa County.
Having too much rain can be bad for Christmas trees. If there’s too much water in the ground, it can stop trees from getting oxygen. Basically, it drowns the roots.
“Firs don’t like to have wet feet,” Thomas said. “I did lose quite a few but I hadn’t ever lost them before, so hopefully we won’t get a repeat next year.”
Thomas lost at least 300 trees on his farm. Carroll says his trees fared better than expected. The impacts of the weather are different for every farm in every part of the region. There are about 500 Christmas tree farms in Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Despite some of these issues, folks involved with the Virginia Tree Growers Association say we won’t have a “blue Christmas.”
“Looks like there’s plenty of trees for everyone,” Thomas said.
While Virginia is getting too much rain, some areas are dealing with too little. The Camp Fire in California went through a Christmas tree farm near Paradise.
“Their entire farm, all of their trees were lost in the fire and they just made it out with the clothes that they had on their back,” Carroll said.
The Christmas Tree Growers Association is raising money to help the farm get back on their feet.
“It’s pretty difficult. It makes you think if it were happening here – we’re getting the opposite, we’re getting too much water – they’re not getting enough,” Carroll said. “Our heart goes out to the folks that are out there.”
Governor Northam also proclaimed December as Virginia Christmas Tree Month. To find a farm near you, click here.