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What Does It Take To Be In The PA Christmas Tree Business? Patience

Keith Srakocic
A group of people trek though Grupp's Christmas Tree farm in Harmony, Pa., on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017.

Pennsylvania is the fourth- biggest producer of Christmas trees in the country. The commonwealth cuts and sells around a million a year, according to the state growers’ association.

But before those trees can be sold, they have to be painstakingly grown and maintained for almost a decade.

That’s where people like Rod Wirt come in.

He and his wife Jodi own Blue Ridge Christmas Tree Farm in Annville, about 20 miles from Harrisburg.

They’ve been in the business for thirty years. According to Wirt, there’s a lot of planning involved—and sometimes, you get hit with bad luck.

Right now, he’s dealing with a Douglas Fir dilemma: the trees are getting fungus.

“Eight years ago, Douglas Fir was the big seller,” he said. “Now today, it’s Frasier Fir. Well, now nobody wants the Douglas Fir so we have to burn them, replant the fields with Douglas Fir, and wait seven or eight years.”

Wert has a hundred acres devoted to trees, and often, he and his son are the ones fertilizing the soil, checking for root rot, and shearing the trees to look classically Christmassy.

He said the job gets tougher as he gets older.

“It’s kind of sad that I can’t work like I used to, because I used to accomplish a lot more,” he said.

But Wirt’s not thinking about stopping yet. In fact, he’s already planning out his next eight years of trees.