Choose-and-cut Christmas trees higher demand in NJ
The fields at Wyckoff's Christmas Tree Farm are already closed off to cutting, so that there's enough inventory for next year.
About 65,000 trees are planted at any given time at the farm in Belvidere. But not all are fully matured, so 5,000 to 6,500 were made available to folks looking for a full experience when picking an evergreen.
"Folks don't do enough together as families, and I think it just gives them an opportunity to spend the day as a family and come enjoy New Jersey's countryside," said owner John Wyckoff.
Christmas tree farms across New Jersey say the choose-and-cut model has become more popular among families over the past few years.
Seventy of these farms dot the state, with at least one in every county except Essex, Hudson and Union, according to the New Jersey Christmas Tree Growers Association.
Depending on the variety of tree, it could take as long as 10 years before a sapling turns into a product fit for a standard living room. At minimum, farms have to wait seven years before a tree is ready at 6 to 9 feet.
That standard height is in the shortest supply at Anne Ellen Christmas Tree Farm in Manalapan, according to manager Jack Sangillo.
"On our busy days we'll do between 400 and 500 trees," Sangillo said.
The farm also brings in about three tractor-trailer loads of trees — varieties that aren't grown in New Jersey — from other areas of the country, as well as Canada.
The pre-cut trees that don't sell are chipped or burned, Sangillo said. And about 10,000 saplings are purchased every year to replenish their fields.
When a tree is cut at Yuletide Christmas Tree Farm in New Egypt, another will be planted in its place months later. Then the years-long wait begins, along with annual maintenance.
"You have to shear each tree. Each tree gets a haircut every year," said co-owner John Perry.
Not all farms in New Jersey use the "interplant" model. Some owners choose to clear entire blocks and start from scratch.