Cultivating these Christmas icons requires a year-round commitment!

The Virginia Farm Bureau is showcasing some of the 1,400 Christmas tree growers across the state as they engage in a year-round labor of love behind these iconic holiday symbols — from novice tree grower like Ricky Lapkin to seasoned veterans of the industry like Timothy O’Neal.

The story of Christmas trees begins long before the holiday season. In Virginia, where approximately 1,400 Christmas tree growers engage in a love affair with their craft, the process is a year-round endeavor. The Virginia Farm Bureau provides a glimpse into the dedication and passion of the growers behind these iconic holiday symbols.

The journey from planting to harvest is an intricate dance, as demonstrated by the planting of five sections of trees that will span the next five to six years. With an estimated 1,200 trees per acre, the planting process involves meticulous planning, hard work, and collaboration. While the labor-intensive nature of planting may seem daunting, it is an essential step in ensuring a steady supply of fresh Christmas trees for years to come.

Despite the convenience of artificial trees, America’s fascination with fresh Christmas trees is experiencing a resurgence. In fact, approximately 25 to 30 million fresh-cut trees are sold each year nationwide. Virginia’s tree industry stands as a beacon to the enduring appeal of real Christmas trees, earning estimated annual gross sales of $20 to $30 million.

For Ricky Lapkin, a novice tree grower, and Timothy O’Neal, a seasoned veteran, cultivating Christmas trees is more than a seasonal venture—it’s a labor of love that spans generations.

Planting the Seed: First-Generation Grower Ricky Lapkin

Ricky Lapkin’s decision to invest in a Christmas tree farm as a new side business reflects a desire to contribute to the revival of small, family-friendly farms.

Lapkin’s foray into the Christmas tree business was inspired by cherished family memories of cutting down their own trees. As smaller farms gradually fade away due to retirements and changing landscapes, he saw an opportunity on his property to revive the tradition.

The Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association, in collaboration with other state Growers Associations, is exploring ways to bring back local farms, providing families with the opportunity to cut their own trees and immerse themselves in the Christmas experience.

Passing Down Passion: Second-Generation Grower Timothy O’Neal

Timothy O’Neal, a second-generation tree grower, inherited his family’s farm, which was established by his father in 1965. After working alongside his father throughout his life, O’Neal intimately understands the ongoing learning curve of cultivating Christmas trees, emphasizing that the process is one requiring continuous education.

As the O’Neals aim to sell around 500 trees this year, they emphasize the farm’s “No Frills” approach—focusing on fresh trees and friendly faces. The excitement and energy that accompany the arrival of families on the farm contribute to the joy of the season.

According to a survey by the National Christmas Tree Association, over 30 percent of real Christmas trees were purchased at choose-and-cut farms in 2022, underscoring the enduring charm of this timeless holiday tradition. For those interested in choosing and cutting their own tree, the Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association website offers the latest list of growers, connecting consumers with the roots of joy that lie in Virginia’s Christmas tree farms. To learn more, visit: VirginiaGrown.com

Related Stories
The upcoming year holds significant importance for the Climate Smart Commodities Program, as partnerships and data reporting take center stage, according to a top USDA official.
A landmark agreement aimed at salmon restoration and clean energy projects along the Snake River is facing intense scrutiny and opposition from the agricultural industry.
Livestock producers are increasingly turning their attention to grazing management as a key strategy for optimizing production.

LATEST STORIES BY THIS AUTHOR:

The FCC stopped taking requests for the $14 billion program earlier this month. Lawmakers warn an end to this program could be detrimental.
At the center of those discussions is spending for USDA.
Producers are getting a better outlook for hog profitability, and analysts call it a breath of fresh air.
As spring planting nears, Midwestern farmers are gearing up for a season filled with opportunities and challenges like market pressures and pest dynamics.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recently unveiled a new herbicide plan, sparking concerns among soybean farmers across the United States.
Agriculture Shows
From soil to harvest. Top Crop is an all-new series about four of the best farmers in the world—Dan Luepkes, of Oregan, Illinois; Cory Atley, of Cedarville, Ohio; Shelby Fite, of Jackson Center, Ohio; Russell Hedrick, of Hickory, North Carolina—reveals what it takes for them to make a profitable crop. It all starts with good soil, patience, and a strong planter setup.
Champions of Rural America is a half-hour dive into the legislative priorities for Rural America. Join Host and Market Day Report Anchor Christina Loren as she interviews members of the Congressional Western Caucus to learn about efforts in Washington to preserve agriculture and tackles the most important topics in the ag industry on Champions of Rural America!
Farm Traveler is for people who want to connect with their food and those who grow it. Thanks to direct-to-consumer businesses, agritourism, and social media, it’s now easier than ever to learn how our food is made and support local farmers. Here on the Farm Traveler, we want to connect you with businesses offering direct-to-consumer products you can try at home, agritourism sites you can visit with your family, and exciting new technologies that are changing how your food is being grown.
Featuring members of Congress, federal and state officials, ag and food leaders, farmers, and roundtable panelists for debates and discussions.
Host Ben Bailey hops in the tractor cab, giving farmers 10 minutes to answer as many questions and grab as much cash as they can for their local FFA chapter.