Evergreens Ready to be Christmas Trees

LEXINGTON, Ky. – It's that time of year when people start breaking out the holiday decorations. For many families, that includes picking the perfect Christmas tree. Brenna Angel talked to a local tree grower about what it takes to keep the tradition going.

BRENNA ANGEL: We're at Barker's Tree Farm in Lexington. I'm joined by Dale Barker, owner and operator of this operation. Dale, tell me a little bit about what you've got going on here.

DALE BARKER: We've got about eight acres of trees, which is about a thousand trees per acre. Anywhere from just planted this year to nine foot tall. We grow a variety of trees, Scotch Pine, White Pine, Douglas Fir, Canadian Fir, and Concolor Fir.

ANGEL: How long have you and your family been doing this? This is your property, you live right down the road, your family lives right here, and there are the trees.

BARKER: It's a year-round operation. It doesn't just happen in December. We started off 15 years ago, planted our first trees. It took seven years to ever sell the first one. So it's a long term obligation.

ANGEL: What has to be done year round in terms of planning ahead for the upcoming season and maintaining the ones that are already starting to grow?

BARKER: Of course you've got the selling season starting the day after Thanksgiving. It's a pretty intense time of year because you work all year long just to get to those three weekends or those three or four weeks that we do sell trees. The rest of the year is mowing, trimming, and spraying, and cultivating, and praying a little bit that they all live.

ANGEL: How is Kentucky weather treating your trees? This year was kind of crazy, we had lots of rain then we had no rain. What does it mean in this climate for evergreens?

BARKER: Well it was a good growth spurt in the summer--I mean spring-- like you said, when we had plenty of rain. Then of course the last month and a half, two months of the summer was really tough on the new seedlings that we'd put out that year. That's where you really are hurt is the trees that you're expecting to be able to sell in six to seven years, that's when you'll see the difference. The ones that were mature enough to sell this year, it really didn't hurt those too bad.

ANGEL: So what does someone need to keep in mind, if they're thinking we want to get a live tree this year,' what are some things they need to consider?

BARKER: Don't be putting it up too early. We've got a few people who like to put it up the week before Thanksgiving. I think that's just a little early. I don't want them to be disappointed with their tree when things start drying out on them. Location in the house has a lot to do with it; away from heat sources, away from just the sun coming in through the windows. You know, close the blinds on them. And then just never let the tree go dry is the main thing as far as enjoying a fresh cut tree.

ANGEL: What is it about a live tree as opposed to an artificial, a fake tree, what is it that keeps people coming back out here?

BARKER: Well what got us into it as a family, when our kids were young, we started going to tree farms, just all piling into the truck or the car. Going out and selecting the tree, and everybody having their own idea which one it was. You know you don't get that feeling when you go to Wal-mart. You don't get any mud on you or any dirt on you. So you kind of enjoy the trip. Trying to get the tree home, that's always a challenge, being sure it doesn't fall off the car. You got the whole Griswold thing.

ANGEL: I imagine they smell pretty good, too.

BARKER: That's a plus. I've never smelled a good-smelling artificial tree.