Agronomy for Christmas trees important

Providing healthy Christmas trees to households for more than 20 years means that Martin Kempster’s pick-your-own farm has become an annual tradition for many.

The Christmas Tree Farm in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, sells around 1000 trees each year, with 23,000 planted in the ground at any one time.

Advertised purely by word of mouth, the site opens at the end of November, inviting visitors to select their desired fresh tree which is then cut, wrapped in netting and placed in their vehicle.

“There’s a huge choice, but most people opt for a 6-8ft Nordmann fir, a variety that’s very popular because the trees retain their needles,” said Martin.

“I don’t need to advertise because people return year in year out, we’ve become a festive family tradition and it’s truly lovely.”

As well as domestic trees, the farm has also supplied the film industry, including providing a 16ft fir for a period drama’s TV Christmas special.

But the hard work doesn’t just take place in December – Martin is busy all year round with tasks such as pruning, feeding and supplying nutrition, and supporting healthy growth through the application of crop protection products.

He said: “I’ve worked with Johnny Beck from Agrovista since we started the business. He helps us to implement the technical advice we receive from the British Christmas Tree Growers Association (BCTGA) in the most effective way.

“Not only supplying us with product, his expertise includes ensuring we protect beneficial insects when we are selecting our spray programmes, an important factor when it comes to integrated pest management.

“Johnny also conducted a soil analysis for us, which has been invaluable in understanding the status of our soil, and what it needs to best support healthy tree growth.”

Working together to apply the BCTGA recommendations means Martin and Johnny have developed an effective longstanding relationship, protecting not only the Christmas trees, but also the farm’s profitability.

Amenity Agronomist Johnny said: “The fact Martin’s business works purely by word of mouth is a testament to its success. It’s not just a Christmas tree farm, it’s an experience.

“I think we’ve been successful because it’s a three-way relationship between Agrovista, Martin the customer, and also the growers association. Together, we interpret the industry guidance to make sure the trees remain healthy so that customer experience is optimum.

“And that’s really important when it’s a pick-your-own business, because aesthetics and visual appeal are paramount. Customers not only want a beautiful tree from a well-maintained site, but they want family photos and memories which they can cherish.”

 

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About The Author

John Swire - Deputy editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.