State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

The State House Sound Bites Podcast is now called State of the State and is a part of PA Post, a digital-first, citizen-focused news organization to hold Pennsylvania’s government accountable to its citizens.

What does it take to be in the PA Christmas tree business? Patience.

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Dec 21, 2018 1:36 PM
Christmas Tree Farm frasier firs.jpg

Frasier firs suffering from root rot at the Blue Ridge Christmas Tree Farm on Dec. 19, 2018. (Lisa Wardle/WITF)


(Harrisburg) - 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 Wert come in.

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

Christmas tree farm

Rod Wert, owner of Blue Ridge Christmas Tree Farm, and Chris the cat stand by some concolor firs on Dec. 19, 2018. (Lisa Wardle/WITF)

They've been in the business for thirty years. According to Wert, 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 Wert's not thinking about stopping yet. In fact, he's already planning out his next eight years of trees.

Published in News, State House Sound Bites

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