Local tree farmer has tree selected for display at U.S. White House, talks business
By William Crooks
Local Journalism Initiative
A tree produced at local Downey Tree Farm and Nursery (in Hatley) has been selected for display at the U.S.’ White House this Christmas. The Record spoke with farm director of production Jimmy Downey for the details on this and other aspects of his family’s business.
The family business
“My parents are still the owners [of the business],” Downey began; it will take time for the business to be fully transferred over to him. Downey has his hands full with two full time jobs, he said, replacing his retired parents who used to run the farm together. His parents still run things when he is out of town on business, he added. “They are still very helpful.
The farm has almost doubled in size over the past 10 years, Downey explained. The nursery part of their business is taking off, he said, and the market is in their favour. Very hot weather is “hitting the West hard”, he noted, referring to his competition in the northern American states that also cultivate young Christmas trees. This amounts to an increase in demand for his saplings.
70 per cent of Downey’s business is growing small trees that get planted on other farms; the remaining 30 per cent is the trees he grows to maturation on his own property. The Downey farm also hosts a “choose and cut” event every year, where you can come to their farm, choose a tree, and bring it home fresh the same day. “It’s almost like a festival,” he said, referring to the “overwhelming” amount of people that participate. Last year, they sold 1,800 trees this way.
Few other Christmas tree plantations work with Christmas trees from the seed to “client level” (when they are sold), Downey explained. Most farms choose to specialize in young trees, older trees or just “choose and cut”, he said. It is an advantage to know all the aspects of the business, he insisted.