Hancock County may be known for its fields of corn, soybeans and wheat, but it also has other types of agriculture, such as Christmas tree farms.
Christmas tree farms are an example of land production that is sustainable and renewable. They provide a long-term rotation away from grain crops, provide habitat for wildlife, and protect soils from erosion. Once Christmas is over, trees can be recycled as kindling, firewood, mulch, or placed in ponds for fish habitat.
A Christmas tree farm is a long-term commitment, but it can provide a source of income on smaller acres of land. It can take as few as four years or as many as 15 years for a tree to reach 6 feet in height.
The average growing time is seven years, and this time is often occupied with fighting floods, wind, hail and droughts. Trees have to be pruned on a regular basis to get the desired shape by selling time, and in this area, trees have to be protected from deer.
Pine, spruce, and fir are the most common conifers used for Christmas trees. Conifers are trees that have cones as fruiting structures and leaves that are described as needle or scale-like.
One can identify the type of conifer by counting the number of needles attached to the stem. If needles are attached in clusters of two to five, it is a pine. Spruce and fir have individual needles directly attached to the stem.
To distinguish between a spruce and fir, feel the texture, shape, and rolling ability of the needle. Spruce needles tend to be sharply pointed and easily roll between your fingers. Fir needles tend to be soft and flat and are difficult to roll.
The display characteristics of common Christmas trees are given here:
• Scotch pine — is known for the contrast between its blue-green needles and orange-red bark. It has good needle retention with strong branches. Needles are 1 to 3 inches long in bundles of two.
• White pine — has greener needles than Scotch with a soft, glossy look. It has very good needle retention but weaker branches for decorations. The tree is known for a pleasant holiday scent. Needles are 2½ to 5 inches long in bundles of five.
• Blue spruce — has fair needle retention with strong branches. Needles are prickly and silver-blue in color and the tree has a strong, pungent scent.
• Black Hills spruce — has needles that are shorter and softer than the Colorado blue spruce. Trees have excellent color and have a very traditional Christmas tree appearance. Stiff branches are excellent for hanging ornaments.
• Norway spruce — has fair needle retention with dense and strong branches. Needles are dark green and the tree has a traditional holiday scent.
• Fraser fir — has excellent needle retention and thick branches for heavy decoration. Needles are green above and silver below and the tree has a medium evergreen scent.
• Canaan fir (pronounced ka NANE) — is a type of balsam fir that has good needle retention and medium branches for decoration. Needles are dark green on both sides and the tree has a strong evergreen scent.
Before selecting a Christmas tree, decide its location in the house and determine the proper height and size for the room. If selecting a precut tree, make sure the tree is fresh by grasping a branch and gently pulling the branch and needles through your hand. Few needles should come off if the tree is fresh.
Harvesting a tree from a local farm will guarantee that your tree is fresh and it should easily last through the holiday season. Christmas tree farms are seasonal businesses and hours of operation may be found on their Facebook pages and websites.
Hancock County has two Christmas tree farms: Homestead Fall Farm, east of Findlay near Alvada, and Kaleidoscope Farm, west of Findlay near Mount Cory. Both farms have a gift shop and activities that can be enjoyed by the family while selecting the perfect tree.
Kaleidoscope Farm was recognized at the 2016 Ohio State Fair by having a Black Hills spruce selected as the reserve grand champion Christmas tree. The same tree was selected by fair visitors as the people’s choice award winner.
Kaleidoscope Farm has also donated trees to troops overseas by participating in the Ohio Christmas Tree Association’s “Operation Evergreen.” Trees are packaged with decorations and letters of gratitude expressing support for those defending our country.
A real tree may be something to consider for your holiday season. Selecting that special tree at a local farm and decorating it later may become one of your family’s cherished Christmas memories.
More information on the Christmas tree industry and selecting the perfect Christmas tree may be found at http://ohiochristmastree.org and at http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/buying_your_first_farm_grown_christmas_tree.
Lentz is extension educator for agriculture and natural resources for The Ohio State University Extension Service in Hancock County. He can be reached at 419-422-3851 or via email at lentz.38@osu.edu.
Lentz can be heard with Vaun Wickerham on weekdays at 6:35 a.m. on WFIN, at 5:43 a.m. on WKXA-FM, and at 5:28 a.m. at 106.3 The Fox.