Christmas Trees Hit by Drought

By: Danielle Banks
By: Danielle Banks

At Evergreen Tree Farm in Keezeltown, a group of Mountain View Elementary kindergarteners are learning how to raise Christmas trees.

"Okay! It's getting ready to fall. What do you say?" owner Dave Thomas asks.

"Timber!!!" the kids yell out in unison.

Jim Culpepper, who works at the farm, says, "Actually, there's a whole lot of work to a tree farm that we like to tell the children and the public in general. That there's more to it, a whole lot more to it. And the kids? We just have a ball with the kids!"

The children learn about different types of trees and how they need to be taken care of during the year. While kids see a lot of evergreens, Culpepper says things differently.

"This past year I bet we lost about 50 percent of our white pine seedlings that we set out and a vast number of the other types that we set out," says Culpepper.

Because Christmas trees take 7 to 10 years to grow, the effects of the drought won't show up immediately.

"Did it rain a lot this spring?" Culpepper asks the kids.

"Yes!!!" they respond, but he corrects them.

"No, it didn't. It was really, really dry and dry weather really hurts baby trees when you plant them," Culpepper says.

Averaging 1,500 trees sold a season, at $25 each, a continuing drought will make things bad on the farm.

"It hurts you years down the road when you keep cutting and heavily cutting and them all of a sudden you turn around and you don't have the trees to cut for the next year," says Culpepper.

But that doesn't keep people away.

"Next year or the year after we may have to import a few more until our balance gets back in check," Culpepper says.

For the kids, they know what a tree in their homes means.

Hunter Richards says, " We get presents because it's Christmas."

Culpepper says the next two weeks will be busy. And they expect it to keep up through Christmas.

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