Christmas Tree Farmers All Ready Getting Prepped for Holiday Season

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- "Oh Christmas tree. Oh Christmas tree," is popular for the holidays, but at the Christmas Tree Farmers Winter Convention, it's a song sung year-round.

"It's not just putting the tree in the ground and watching it grow. You have to go out. Take care of the tree. Mow the grass, shear, you're harvesting come Christmas time, a lot more work than people think," said Peter Salerno, Pennsylvania tree farmer.

A commitment easily affected by the unpredictable weather, like last summer's dry spell.

"Unfortunately, some farmers did lose some of their new planting, but they'll be able to replant," said Mary Jeanne Packer, Christmas Tree Farmers Association of New York executive director

"We had dry spells, but we always had enough surface moisture to keep the healthy and green and fresh," said Paul Shealer, convention speaker.

Many farmers say they did well.

"We've had one of our best years that we've had in a long time," said Derek Berkey, Berkey's Nursery.

"There's not a single grower that I've spoken to since Christmas that did not have an excellent year," said Shealer.

For tree farmers, complications can mainly affect long-term sales.

"In terms of the customers, when you go and cut your own Christmas tree next year, you're not going to find that we're out of trees," said Packer.

However, slow returns on investments have caused the number of tree farmers to drop.

"From the time trees are planted, you're talking zero return for eight to 10 years. There's not a lot of people that want to tie up their money that way," said Shealer.

That's why organizers say the convention is so important.

The convention is normally held in Syracuse, but this year, organizers wanted to make sure farmers in the Southern Tier and from areas in Pennsylvania would be able to attend.

That's why this year's theme is "Stronger Together."

"It's good to get out and talk to other tree farmers and learn from their mistakes and teach them what you learned throughout your time as a tree farmer," said Salerno.

"The people we deal with come here. The people we need that we provide the service for come here," said Carl Neutzel, Neutzel Landscape Services president.

Sticking together and helping each other succeed.

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