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A Growing Christmas Tradition

Virginia Christmas tree sales are on the rise

November-December 2023

From left, Robert O’Keefe, Lori Grove and Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matt Lohr. (Courtesy John Carroll)

by Jane W. Graham, The Delmarva Farmer

The future of the Virginia Christmas tree looks bright, Matt Lohr, Virginia’s secretary of agriculture and forestry, recently told growers attending the Virginia Christmas Tree Growers annual meeting in Winchester, Va.

Lohr shared his personal memories of buying Christmas trees with his young family, including going to a Christmas tree farm every year, getting the tree, and digging out ornaments and memories from the attic to decorate the tree. He says this is likely the same experience many families share each year.

Christmas tree farms are an important part of the state’s agritourism movement, Lohr contends. He says they are not just selling trees, but memories. He pointed out that Virginia ranks seventh in the nation in Christmas tree production and generates $10 million in sales for the state’s economy.

“And I think it will continue to grow,” he says. “Coming out of COVID, people want more locally grown food and trees. They want to support local farmers.”

Lohr added he was excited to speak to the group and show his support to a segment of Virginia’s farming community that has been so important to his family and to the state.

Lohr presented Lori Grove her Grand Champion award in the group’s wreath contest during the meeting. Grove’s family operates Caritas Tree Farm at Mt. Solon, Va.

A highlight of the meeting, the annual auction to raise money for the group’s scholarship, was an unexpected success, retiring board member Robert O’Keefe says. He says it raised nearly double the money from last year.

Grove is taking over organizing the group’s Christmas tree and wreath-making contests, filling the vacancy left by O’Keefe’s retirement. O’Keefe was presented with a plaque for his 16 years on the board and for his service to the organization.

This is a year of transition for the association that is led again by President Ryan Clouse.

This year, Clouse and the association welcomed a new vice president, Ben Snyder. Snyder and his wife, Angel, are part of a new generation of Christmas tree growers. They are starting a farm in Caroline County, Va. Ben Snyder brings a lifetime of experience in the industry, having grown up on a Pennsylvania Christmas tree farm.

“It was a good meeting,” John Carroll, outgoing vice president, says.

The group recognized Carroll with a plaque for his leadership over the years. Carroll gave the credit for much of his work to his wife, Virginia, and pointed to her work in organizing a new effort for VCTGA, Christmas Tree Day at the Capital.

Meeting attendees learned that a group from both VCTGA and the Mount Rogers Christmas Tree Growers Association promoted the industry in Richmond with visits to the General Assembly and its individual members, the governor and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

A tour of one of the newest farm members, Haven Wood Farm in Berryville, marked the opening of the three-day gathering. This will be the
first year for farm owner Eric Biebighauser to sell trees on his farm.

The event ended at Mountain View Tree Farm in Woodstock, a 43-acre property that includes over 20 acres of mature hardwood forest with running streams, a 1-acre pond, and three separate fields of wild flowers, grasses and Christmas trees. The first Christmas trees were planted there in spring 2019 and will be ready for harvest in about five to seven years.

The Delmarva Farmer is a weekly newspaper for farmers, farming and the agriculture industry in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.