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Xmas tree farmer harvests success

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By Fiona Reid
Farming
Xmas tree farmer harvests success

A CHRISTMAS tree grower in the region has become one of the biggest in Scotland.

This year, Scottish Christmas Trees will be harvesting over 50,000 firs from 260 acres of farmland in Dumfries and Galloway.

Now one of the largest growers in Scotland, Rory Young of Glaisters Farms Ltd, Kirkgunzeon, began the diversification of his family farm to expand into the seasonal Christmas tree business in 1999.

Starting off with a small field of Fraser Firs, more than 20 years later the farm has achieved successive growth year on year with three variety of trees now grown.

A third-generation farmer, Rory has led his dedicated tree team to take great pride and care in the growing and shaping of his trees. He said: “On our farm we are committed to growing beautiful Christmas trees, with an even shape and dense appearance.

“From seedlings to fully grown firs, the whole process takes about seven years, and during this time they are continually monitored, given organic supplements, and later sheared to help get that iconic Christmas tree form.”

He explained that although Christmas trees were not initially integral to the business, they have expanded steadily: “In 2006 we sold 800 trees, whereas this year we are expecting to harvest in the region of 50,000 trees, so the trees now represent a significant part of our overall annual farming enterprise turnover.

“As a company, we are product, customer and environmentally focused.”

They produce three varieties with the main species being Nordman and Fraser Fir due to their low-needle drop.

Rory’s trees end up in homes around the UK and the success is driven by the wholesale market which accounts for 95 per cent of business and sees trees distributed to garden centres, specialist sellers in the south, and even London-based retailers.

The remaining five per cent of customers live in the local area.

Although it’s a seasonal business, year-round labour is still required and the farm employs five full-time workers on the trees. This rises to 35 during the very busy harvest period in the immediate run up to Christmas.

Combined with the farm’s free-range egg production, grassland and grazing, it is a leading example of how to combine specialist diversification endeavours with more traditional agricultural output.

Rory has also embraced renewables, with three wind turbines and a water source heat pump. All heat and electricity is produced on the farm to run the main house, the poultry sheds, office and farm buildings.

Discussing the company’s performance, David Rowe, agricultural relationship manager from Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank, said: “We’ve been able to help Glaisters Farms Ltd with a number of loan facilities, as well as with purchasing the foreign currency they need to purchase seeds and saplings from as far afield as Norway, Russia and the USA. It’s been very rewarding to see this side of the business grow, where it now contributes in the region of 20 per cent turnover.”

And Rory added: “Over the years, the Clydesdale Bank, been very helpful and very proactive. They have helped with buying young plants from across Europe and beyond, as well as with capital for very specialist machinery. Without this, the level of mechanisation we’ve achieved on the farm wouldn’t have been possible.”

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