The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

November 25, 2012

After summer drought, local farms still harvesting Christmas tree crops

JOPLIN, Mo. — If you have your heart set on displaying a live Christmas tree this holiday season, you’re in luck.

The owners of several local Christmas tree farms say the severe drought that gripped the region over the summer, though damaging, had little effect on this winter’s crop of trees.

“As far as the outlook is concerned, we’re very optimistic,” said Karen Bowen, who owns Bowen’s Christmas tree farm in Pittsburg, Kan., with her husband, Jim.

Drought conditions lasting for much of the summer withered fields and crops locally. But summer weather patterns typically don’t have a significant impact on crops harvested later in the year, according to Rick Dungey, public relations manager for the National Christmas Tree Association.

“Those are more mature trees with well-established root systems, so they’re not as susceptible to seasonal weather patterns as are younger trees,” he said in an August blog post for the association. “The seedlings farmers planted in the spring, however, can be damaged by excessive or insufficient rainfall. Mortality rates of newly planted seedlings can go up due to weather extremes.”

That was the situation this summer at the Ozark Valley Christmas Tree Farm near Southwest City, which held its grand opening on Friday, co-owner Charity Keith said.

She said her older trees, which take about seven years to reach the appropriate height and maturity for a Christmas tree, already had established root systems when the drought hit, having been planted years ago. The younger trees didn’t fare well, she said.

“We planted 600 seedlings this year, and we lost every single one of them,” Keith said. “It was really sad. That doesn’t affect us this year, but in seven years, we’re going to notice that — we won’t have that crop coming up.”

The Ozark Valley farm offers pre-cut trees in varieties not typically grown in Missouri, such as Fraser firs and white pines, as well as Scotch pines that visitors can cut themselves, Keith said. The farm also offers hayrides and a gift shop.

Andy Johnson, co-owner of the Bridgestone Christmas tree farm, on Highway 43 north of Stone’s Corner, said his crop of younger trees was more affected than his older trees by the lack of rainfall.

“Mainly with the drought, what we lost were our little trees, the ones we planted in the spring,” he said. “By the time they get 4 or 5 years old, they’re pretty drought-resistant, so I didn’t see too much as far as those trees being affected until it got way far along into the drought, and that’s when I watered at night, basically all night long.”

The Bridgestone farm offers pre-cut trees and also gives visitors the option of cutting down a tree in the fields. It features hayrides, a gift shop and campfires for visitors.

“As a family, we like going out and cutting down Christmas trees, and we just wanted to offer that to other families,” Johnson said. “We’re hoping we can really provide for this area the atmosphere of Christmas.”

Bowen said she had not seen anything like the summer drought since she and her husband planted their first tree in 1984.

“We’ve had other diseases, but no, this is the first time we had where we could see (an impact) on all of them, not just a few,” she said.

Bowen said the lack of rainfall stunted the growth of some of the more mature trees. Partly for that reason, visitors will not be allowed to cut down a tree at the Bowen farm this year, though they will be allowed to roam the fields. A variety of pre-cut trees, including Scotch and Austrian pines and Fraser, Balsam and Douglas firs, will be available on site.

One local Christmas tree farm, Pine Flats, owned by the Bridges family, fell victim to a July wildfire that ate up hundreds of acres northwest of Diamond. Pre-cut and cut-your-own trees are still available at the family’s other farm, 18434 Ivy Road near Carthage.

In addition to farms, Christmas trees also will be available this year at a number of retail locations, including the newly reopened Anderson’s Ice Cream shop south of Joplin. Owner Billy Garrigan acknowledged that it is “unique” for an ice cream shop to sell trees — he said he brought in 58 Fraser firs from a farm in North Carolina and had sold about 20 by Friday — but he wanted to add to the family-friendly atmosphere he tries to create at the shop.

“It’s something else that families can come and do together,” he said. “It kind of adds more to their experience down here.”

By the numbers

30.8 million live Christmas trees in 2011, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. Of those, 84 percent were pre-cut and bought by consumers from a farm, nursery, chain store or retail lot, while the remaining 16 percent were cut at farms by the consumers themselves.

Text Only
Local News
  • Gov. Nixon signs measure extending Missouri Rx program

    Gov. Jay Nixon signed legislation Thursday sponsored by Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, that will extend Missouri’s prescription drug assistance program for another three years.

    July 11, 2014

  • Four State Farm Show gearing for 40th year

    The annual Four State Farm Show, which brings thousands of farmers and ranchers to the area, has grown into a mall of agriculture over the past 40 years.

    July 11, 2014

  • Carver Day activities planned at monument

    Nearly 1,000 people will descend on George Washington Carver National Monument Saturday for the 71st annual Carver Day ceremony.

    July 11, 2014

  • Globe Alerts contest winners announced

    Congratulation to Bill Harvey and Michelle Ramriez!

    They won tickets to see the Cardinals play on Friday, July 18 in St. Louis.

    They won just for being registered to receive text and email Joplin Globe Alerts.

    You can Win too. Just register and wait for our contest announcements.

    July 11, 2014

  • 071114 Mustang1_72.jpg Mustangs roll into Joplin for Mother Road Weekend

    Amanda Massey, of Joplin, gasped when she saw the 1968 fastback Mustang. “This is gorgeous — simply gorgeous,’’ she said. “I have always wanted an old Mustang.’’ With family members in tow, Massey had an opportunity Friday to examine a herd of wild and colorful Mustangs that muscled its way onto Main Street in downtown Joplin for the Mustang Mother Road Weekend.

    July 11, 2014 3 Photos

  • Local libraries target early childhood literacy with state program

    Local libraries are reporting great success so far this summer with the Racing to Read program, an early childhood literacy initiative from the state. The program, established by Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, is designed to help strengthen and expand the quality and availability of library services to address early literacy needs in Missouri.

    July 11, 2014

  • Joplin High School construction ‘fast, furious’ in homestretch

    Will Joplin High School be ready for classes next month? It’s a question that is being asked of Superintendent C.J. Huff almost daily now, and he said Friday that the project is still tracking for an Aug. 25 opening. “I’m over there almost every day, and the transformation is remarkable,” he said.

    July 11, 2014

  • Camper dies from copperhead snake bite in Missouri

    A St. Charles man is dead after being bitten by a copperhead snake while camping with his family in southeast Missouri.

    July 11, 2014

  • Prosecutor reduces charges alleging child endangerment

    The Jasper County prosecutor has reduced child endangerment charges a father was facing in connection with allegedly driving under the influence of sleeping pills with his children in the car and crashing the vehicle into the Toys R Us store in Joplin.

    July 10, 2014

  • Joplin Trails Coalition awaiting word on grant for Ruby Jack

    After the rain cleared Thursday morning, Jim Gant grabbed his boots and bug spray and headed to the Ruby Jack Trail near Oronogo to trim the trees and bushes that line the edges.

    July 10, 2014

Must Read


A study, to be reported on in Sunday’s Globe, recently reviewed the market conditions across the region. Do you think this is a good time to start a business?

     View Results
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter