Organic agriculture sustains Christmas tree farm
Pine and cypress perfume the air. Smiling Santa-capped greeters call out a welcome to families with excited children in tow. A family cheers as their chosen tree—a tall loblolly pine—gives way to a bow saw’s metal teeth. For many in Central Texas, the holiday season would be incomplete without a trek to the Elgin CHRISTmas Tree Farm.
“We have many families visit the farm every year to pick out their Christmas trees,” says Marc Nash, who owns and operates the twenty-eight-year-old “choose-and-cut” tree farm along with his wife, Twyla, and a cadre of family members and employees. “For most families, it’s become a tradition. In addition to picking a tree, they take a hayride, visit the mazes, enjoy fresh-cooked Elgin sausage and other snacks at our pavilion, and pick out ornaments at the CHRISTmas Cottage.”
Nurturing more than fifty acres of Christmas trees—including Leyland cypress and Virginia pine—in a semi-arid climate requires diligent care of trees and soil. The crew cultivates nutrient-rich earth with organic products, crop rotations, and other sustainable farming methods. For example, molasses helps stimulate the growth of good microbes, while clover and vetches increase nitrogen levels.
“Healthy roots and soil are the keys to drought tolerance and faster tree growth,” explains Marc, a civil engineer with a focus on the environment. “In addition to building up the soil, we strengthen the root system of each new seedling with a root dip that contains beneficial fungi. We are also starting to rotate our crops, leaving a field fallow for a year to replenish nutrients. This will allow our farm to be productive for many years to come.”
Trees also need effective irrigation to survive extended droughts. “We try to keep optimum moisture in the soil as much as possible,” Marc says, “so we’re constantly irrigating to prevent stress on the trees. During the past few years, even though we lost many trees, we also managed to keep enough alive by hand-watering thousands of baby ones and maintaining twenty-four-hour vigilance.”
These sustainable farming practices have kept the Elgin CHRISTmas Tree Farm open even as other Central Texas tree farms have closed. “The drought has been one of the greatest challenges we’ve had to face,” says Marc. “But because our soil and roots are so healthy, we’re able to continue to provide a place where families find a Christmas tree and have their traditions together.”
Elgin CHRISTmas Tree Farm
120 Nature’s Way