Ann Murray often meets customers who are surprised to see Christmas trees in Summerfield.
They think you can’t grow them in Florida, the owner of Nicholas’s Christmas Tree Farm said.
Although Florida is more well-known for palm trees than Christmas trees, the state remains part of a country-wide network that grows millions of trees every year. The industry is responsible for thousands of acres of tree cultivation in the state, including in the local area.
In 2022, consumers bought 22.34 million real trees nationwide, according to a survey commissioned by the National Christmas Tree Association. Most consumers, almost 31%, got their farm-grown trees from choose and cut farms as opposed to chain stores or nurseries.
When it comes to Florida’s Christmas tree scene, the market is surprisingly robust. The latest U.S. Census of Agriculture recorded that, in 2017, farms grew almost 14,000 Christmas trees.
That same year, the state produced about $1.6 million worth of Christmas trees and similar products. The number means that, despite its warm climate, Florida was the 22nd highest-producing state in that category.
“We still get a lot of business,” said Mike Gibbs, who, along with his wife, Brenda, owns Gibbs Christmas Tree Farm in Citra. “Every year we get a little bit more.”
However, you won’t find some of the more traditional Christmas tree varieties growing locally. Florida farms raise trees such as sand and spruce pines, Southern red cedars and Leland cypress, according to Michael Songer, president of the Florida Christmas Tree Association, but not the fir trees grown in the mountains.
Tony Harris, who co-owns Ergle Christmas Tree Farm in Dade City, tells his customers they won’t be able to come and cut down a fraser fir. While the farm does sell pre-cut firs they ship in, they don’t grow
“Some of them grew up in the North and they’re not used to Florida Christmas trees,”
One of the more popular varieties among Christmas tree farmers is the sand pine, a Florida native tree. It can thrive in almost any soil.
“They’re the plant that grows the best here,” Gibbs said.
Despite the different tree varieties, Florida’s trees still maintain the traditional Christmas tree look. They also maintain the traditional smell, which isn’t something that comes with plastic trees.
“A fake tree is just that: it’s fake,” Gibbs said.
Plastic trees can be reused every year, but there are benefits to real trees as well. When you buy a real tree, Gibbs said, everything about it, the smell, the atmosphere, is different.
“When you come in the house and you smell that fresh Christmas tree, that’s Christmas,” Harris said.
Buying a fresh tree also is good for the environment. It typically takes at least three years for a tree to reach the appropriate height to sell, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture. During that time, the trees provide wildlife habitat and increased soil stability. After the trees are cut down, farmers replant them, creating a sustainable product.
And buying locally supports the state’s economy and saves on transportation costs compared to shipping a live tree from up North.
Getting a live Christmas tree also can create a memorable experience.
Ergle Christmas Tree Farm offers weekend train rides for children, Gibbs Christmas Tree Farm has hay rides, and all three farms let people cut their own tree.
It’s about doing it yourself, Murray said, going out and finding your tree.
“People love that,” she said.
For some, it’s a nostalgic experience.
Debbie Harris, co-owner of Ergle Christmas Tree Farm, said more and more younger families are coming to the farm to cut trees.
“I think they’re trying to recreate the tradition and memories with their children,” she said.
When it comes to picking a tree, farmers advise making sure it isn’t bigger than your ceiling. Some farms even offer measuring poles so people can measure a tree before they
“The only other thing would be pick the one you like,” Gibbs said. “Make sure everybody likes it.”
Nicholas’s Christmas Tree Farm is at 14260 SE 80th Ave., Summerfield. It’s open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week.
Ergle Christmas Tree Farm is at 3331 Treiman Blvd., Dade City. It’s open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. For more information, visit ergletrees.com.
Gibbs Christmas Tree Farm is at 9740 E. Highway 318, Citra. The farm is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. For more information, visit tinyurl.com/363xs4dm.
Specialty Editor Leah Schwarting can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5375, or firstname.lastname@example.org.