Christmas tree farming in Darfield: A renewable resource for 78 years

BSS Grad Class of 2014 holding Christmas tree sale fundraiser

K. Schilling Christmas Tree Farm proprietor

K. Schilling Christmas Tree Farm proprietor

By Heidi Schilling

The Barriere Secondary Grad Class of 2014 will be selling locally grown Christmas trees, produced by Kenny Schilling, as a fundraiser this year.

The Grad Class is especially pleased to be able to be offering a “true renewable resource”, one that can be replenished through biological reproduction.

The Christmas trees they have chosen for their project have been provided by K. Schilling Christmas Tree Farm on Boulder Mountain Road, where the Schilling family can boast a renewable resource of 78 years!

The Wilhelm Schilling family started cultivating Christmas trees on 150 acres in Darfield in 1935, with Kenny and Joy Schilling taking over the family tradition in 1960.

The trees have been shipped as far as Texas and Alberta, but now most of the trees are shipped across B.C.

Many tireless hours go into the production of the trees year round, investing time, labor, and love into a crop which takes seven to 10 years to grow to harvesting.

The Schilling Christmas Tree farm is unique in that its method of production is extremely rare these days. Unlike the common ‘plantation style’ of harvesting where the tree is cut off at the ground; the ‘stump culture’ method is used. This is when a tree is harvested, the bottom branches are left on the stump and pruned to become a new Christmas tree.

It is common to cut 10 to 12 Christmas trees off one stump in its life span, but the most harvested has been 26 Christmas trees off one stump. A true renewable resource which can replenish with the passage of time through biological reproduction!

For many years Kenny was cutting 4,500 trees annually, but that has reduced over the years to a few thousand, which is understandable knowing his youthful age of 78-years-old. If only some of us could be as fortunate in health as he is to still be doing what he loves – creating Christmas trees.

Each year when Christmas rolls around, the question is always raised, “Is it environmentally responsible to be cutting a live Christmas tree each year, or is it better to go with an artificial one”?

There are many reasons why a real Christmas trees is a more “eco-friendly” choice.

Artificial Christmas trees are made primarily of metals and plastics which contain toxic chemicals, all non-renewable resources. On average, an artificial tree is used for seven years before it is disposed of.

So if a tree is displayed for one month per year, that means it will have served as a Christmas tree a total of seven months, and will remain in a landfill indefinitely. Even if it were to be used for 20 holiday seasons, it’s going to end up in a landfill far longer.

Here are the environment benefits of a “real Christmas tree”:

• A “REAL” Christmas tree spends seven to 10 years growing on a farm, all the while producing oxygen and providing shelter for wildlife before it makes it to your living room.

• One hectare of Christmas trees provides the daily oxygen requirements for 45 people.

• For every single Christmas tree that is harvested from the farm, two to three are pruned on the stump in its place to start the cycle over again.

• “REAL” Christmas trees are environmentally friendly as they are biodegradable and are a recyclable, renewable resource.

• “REAL” Christmas trees sequester carbon from the atmosphere, slowing the process of climate change.

• Positive environmental benefits include providing habitat for wildlife and song birds, sequestering carbon and the trees are compostable.   With a local grower they support our economy, and they do not require burning of fuel for long distance shipping.

• No pesticides for weed control or insects.

• During their growing cycle trees grown for harvest add beauty to the landscape. Just take a short drive to the North end of Boulder Mountain Road to see the acres of Christmas trees growing to be harvested for your enjoyment.

• Your family can spend time together outside enjoying nature while looking for the perfect tree.

We are encourage people who are looking for this year’s Christmas tree to support the Barriere Secondary Grad class of 2014 in purchasing a locally grown Christmas tree this season – one that is a renewable resource.

The Grad Class of 2014 will be selling locally grown Christmas trees as a fundraiser at Barriere AG Foods the weekends of Dec. 7 and 8,  as well as Dec. 14 and 15, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Delivery within the town of Barriere will be available by donation. Pre-order sales are available by calling Emma Schilling at 250-672-9241. Trees are also available in bulk orders or single sales off the farm.