Christmas Crop: Christmas tree farming in Alberta
Peter Kappeler grew up on a Christmas tree orchard in Zurich and recently moved to Alberta
Even though the boreal forests of northern Alberta are full of fir trees, there aren’t many that actually head to market as yuletide material. Most of the trees that Albertans will plunk into those annoying stand contraptions come mid-December are imported from other parts of Canada or the U.S., says Peter Kappeler, owner of Fir Ever Green Tree Farm in Falun, Alberta. “There’s not a big industry here,” he says (there is a small handful of other farms).
Kappeler grew up on a Christmas tree orchard near Zurich, Switzerland, and brought his love of trees with him when he moved to Alberta three years ago. His thoughts on the fledgling industry? “We struggle a little bit here,” he says. Still, Kappeler’s you-pick-it, you-cut-it tree farm is a typical Christmas tree concern.
Here’s how Kappeler’s Christmas tree farm works:
Employees: Peter Kappeler, his wife Judy and daughters Julia and Amand
Trees Harvested Per Year: 200
Tree Growth: Maximum six inches per year, which is controlled through pruning. “It’s so the tree gets really bushy,” Kappeler says.
Pest Protection: Trees are sprayed with biodegradable oil to guard against spider mites and aphids.
Retail Price: Blue spruce: $55 and up Balsam fir: Up to $200 (depending on height)
Trees Grown: Balsam fir (indigenous to Alberta) Blue spruce (indigenous to western U.S.)
Total Trees: 2,500
Pruning: Tool used Shearing knives. Time to prune one tree 5-7 minutes.
Guests and Pests: In summer, “every second or third Christmas tree has a bird’s nest in it,” Kappeler says. In winter, the trees attract porcupines.
Gestation per Year:
- 0-2 years of age: tree in the nursery
- 2-3 years of age: maturation
- 3-14 years of age: pruning
Competition: Imported Christmas trees from Canada or U.S. Wholesale price: $25-$35 per tree