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Christmas Tree Farming: Salary and Career Facts

Christmas tree farmers have responsibilities including planting, transplanting and making business transactions. Read on for more info about job duties, training and income for this profession.

What Is a Christmas Tree Farmer?

Christmas tree farmers oversee all stages of development related to the growth and sale of Christmas trees. They plant seedlings, transplant small trees, oversee the care of the trees, determine where trees will be planted and make arrangements for harvesting the trees. They need a critical-thinking and analytical skills because they may oversee staff who perform some of these tasks under their supervision. They also need to make arrangements to supply Christmas trees to retailers who will sell the stock and transport the harvested trees. They also need to maintain all farm equipment and machinery.

Degree Required High school diploma; associate's or bachelor's degree recommended
Education Field of Study Agriculture, business, farm management, agronomy, agricultural economics
Key Responsibilities Planting seedlings, transplanting small trees, harvesting trees, supervising care of the trees, selling stock to retailers
Licensure or Certification Accredited Farm Manager accreditation recommended
Job Growth (2018-2028) -1%* for farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers
Average Salary (2018) $79,940* for farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Will I Do as a Christmas Tree Farmer?

As a Christmas tree farmer you divide your time between tree nurseries, tree-harvesting fields and the office. You'll work to get the seedlings started in a seedbed, and a few years later you'll transplant those seedlings to lineout beds, which provide the intermediate step where seedlings are able to develop healthy roots in a controlled environment for a few years. The small trees are then transplanted into fields where they grow six feet apart for as much as 7-12 more years.

In addition to the hands-on work, you may supervise and coordinate the activities of workers involved in the tree farming and logging process. You might supervise planting, line-out bedding, shearing and the winterizing and harvesting process before the trees are transplanted for sale. Beyond fulfilling your farming and management responsibilities, you'll also need to establish and find retailers, distributors and farming professionals to assist you with the various stages of the operation.

As a business proprietor, you need to attend professional development meetings and conferences, such as the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) meetings and conventions. You will also need to keep current with the newest techniques of crop raising and be familiar with current tree harvesting and buying trends from sources such as the American Christmas Tree Journal, NCTA Intelligencer and other industry newsletters.

What Training Do I Need?

The majority of farmers receive their training on the job; however, as farming technology expands and smaller farmers have to become more competitive on the market, it's beneficial for farmers to earn a 2-year or 4-year degree in agriculture or business.

Many state universities offer programs in agriculture. A typical course of study may include a major in business with a concentration in agriculture or farm management. Another option is a major in agronomy or agricultural economics.

How Profitable Might This Field Be?

For the agricultural field in general, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that in 2018, farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers earned an average annual salary of $79,940. Those who worked in support for crop production earned an average annual salary of $86,570.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Agricultural workers and ranchers have some professional similarities to Christmas tree farmers. Agricultural workers typically learn through on-the-job training, and they work under the supervision of farmers and agricultural managers. They provide direct care for the crops, which may involve planting and watering new crops or harvesting crops. Ranchers do not need a degree, although they may benefit from completing an associate's or bachelor's degree. Ranchers focus on producing livestock, or byproducts from livestock. They may be responsible for dairy cows, or they may breed cows to be slaughtered for meat. Like Christmas tree farmers, they may be involved in all aspects of production, from breeding stock to milk or meat production.