Growing Green at Blue Harvest Farm
What do you do when you have an amazing farm and want something more than a crop in the ground? The first thing you do is assess ideas, figure out what matters to you and follow up with a lot of research.
If you are Dave and Lara Norman, you realize that people really enjoy visiting your farm, and that you enjoy sharing it with them. Then you realize that someone’s suggestion to grow Christmas trees makes sense. “The idea just would not go away,” Lara stated. She has a huge passion for Norfolk County and her community, and this idea gave a way for their family to be involved in a meaningful way.
Dave and Lara are both lifetime residents of Norfolk. Dave has been involved in farming his whole life and still works in agriculture. Lara operates a hair salon from their home. The couple have two children: Blake, eight, is, “a farmer in the making,” and Samira, six, is, “our little sales girl,” Lara related.
Christmas trees take five or more years from planting to harvest, so this is a long-term project. For their first retail season, the couple purchased 50 pre-cut trees to sell from their Hwy 3 property. They also sold fresh wreaths, porch planters and porch décor, which included birch branches and birch ‘cookies,’ small slices of birch branch measuring approximately three inches by one half inch. Ornaments, many sourced from a local artisan were also offered.
Roots super soft and warm outdoor wear – hoodies, toques and hats featuring the farm name were also sold. The new venture was well supported by the community, with almost all items nearly or completely sold out. All trees sold, and Lara stated they could have sold many more. This year they plan to offer up to 150 pre-cut trees, which will be presented open (not bound) and standing so that people can choose the size and shape they love.
Spring of 2022 will see the first of their own trees planted. They plan to start with an acre and a half, increasing year by year until ten acres are planted with trees. The first of these trees will be harvested in six years at approximately six feet tall after growing roughly a foot each year. Trees are maintained each year with fertilizer and trimming to encourage a proper shape for the Christmas market.
Plans are fluid. “We are open to wherever this adventure takes us,” Lara noted, adding that current plans include a cut-your-own option as well as having some pre-cut for those who can’t or don’t wish to search for their ideal tree. The Normans have chosen to grow all fir trees, feeling that these are the best fit for their soil type. Balsam and Fraser firs will be the main types, but they plan to try some Douglas firs as well. Lara explained that most firs are easy to identify, having compact needles which are soft to the touch, are strong for holding ornaments and possessing great needle retention.
Lara has been pleased to find a very supportive community among other growers who are very willing to share information. It has been, “a neat, positive experience.” She added that they are being mentored by a tree farm near London.
"We are open to wherever this adventure takes us."
“One of the blessings this tree farm has brought us is the start of a giving tree … all profits from ornament sales go to a deserving family in Norfolk County,” Lara said, adding that the tree farm donates a tree, stand, box of ornaments and gift card from proceeds of ornament sales. They are hoping to support more families in the future.
Lara sums up their new adventure this way: “People really enjoy the experience of a Christmas tree farm and we definitely get a lot of joy providing it.”