Oh, Christmas tree! Oh, Christmas tree!

December 01, 2017
Ian Allen/Photographer Christmas trees on a farm at Penlyne Castle, St Thomas.
Christmas tree farmers (from left) Alex Smith, Rudolph Watson Jr, Euton Rhodney, and Rudolph Watson Sr.
A Christmas tree farm in Penlyne Castle, St Thomas.
Euton Rhodney (right) explains why farmers intercrop Christmas trees with coffee in the hills of Penlyne Castle, St.Thomas. In the background is Alex Smith.
Ian Allen/Photographer Euton Rhodney
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The fresh scent of pine permeates the air, high up in the Blue Mountain hills.

That, coupled with the extremely cool breeze underlines that Christmas is just around the corner.

This fact has not been lost on Euton Rhodney, Rudolph Watson Sr, Rudolph Watson Jr, and Alex Smith, four Christmas tree farmers, who are gearing up to bring Christmas cheers from the hills to people's homes.

These men are among several who make the journey along the rugged, treacherous roads that lead from the Blue Mountains to the plains of Kingston.

Watson Sr is no red-nosed reindeer, but he is very much into Christmas. He finds joy in selling his trees to people and seeing their faces light up, almost as bright as the decorations that will be placed on them.

Despite the influx of plastic trees, he said that there are still many persons who prefer the real thing.

 

REAL TREES NEEDED

 

"You see the people that are in those upscale areas, they don't want an artificial tree. They need a natural tree. So even though they might have a store close to them, they buy a real tree from us. So we have to constantly keep planting for those clients," Rudolph said.

A Christmas tree typically sells for $1,000 per foot. The average tree is four feet long, and takes up to three years to get to that stage.

There are some farmers, however who grow monster trees, like Smith. He said that the soil makes a difference.

"Me have a 20-foot tree to deliver Saturday in Montego Bay," Smith told THE WEEKEND STAR.

Every year, at the start of December, the farmers make their way down from the hills to sell their trees.

"From Friday (today), Half-Way Tree a go block off with trees," Smith said.

However, even as he and other farmers head to town with Christmas trees, Smith dreads that hustlers have cut into their business.

"It mash up fi we market as a farmer cause we plant it an you have some people come in, and because someone just plant you go buy it like higgla an you go sell it fi $1,500. Fi you grow a tree fi three years an sell it fi $1,500 is nothing at all. A waste a time because it take a lot out a you," he said.

And as Rhodney pointed out, the perfectly shaped, well manicured trees do not just come overnight.

He told THE WEEKEND STAR that he has just planted 700 seedlings, and like he has been doing for a few decades, will have to pay them keen attention to ensure the best results.

"We use the Christmas trees to grow up with the coffee. After three years, we kinda reap because the coffee start spread out now," he said.

Rhodney said that the Christmas trees help to shade the coffee, and in return, they get some of the nutrients from the coffee roots.

"If you don't clean the grass from around the Christmas tree it give it a brownish-yellow colour," he said. "A lot of people think that Christmas trees grow wild. Sometimes we are going down with them and people are cursing us and asking 'Why yah cut down the forest'? Dem don't realise it's a really technical crop, where you have to put a lot of interest and time in. It is like craft because you affi know how to prune it to get that kind a shape," Rhodney said

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