O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

Learning From Their Beauty with Amy Cawley

If you’re curious about the adventures of Christmas trees before they get cut and decorated for the season, here’s a little glimpse behind-the-scenes with Amy Cawley at Cawley Family Farm in Maryland.

It’s that time of year again! Our first pre-cut trees have arrived. Dad has been drilling the tree trunks, setting up the tree stands and filling them with water. The train sets are ready. The wreaths are under construction. The parking lot spaces have been marked. I have organized the cash register. Families are already out here taking their annual Christmas photos. And now, once again, our 15-acre Christmas tree lot at Cawley Family Farm is ready for customers to “Experience a Family Tradition.” 

For every tree that gets cut for the holidays, farmers like us typically plant three more seedlings the following year. So in any given year on our 15-acre tree farm, we have different stages of growth happening. Some trees have been recently planted, while the rest are one year closer to being made available on our tree lot for customers. That’s why only certain parts of the farm are marked for cutting during the holiday season. The trees in the unmarked sections still need a few years to mature and grow. 

By the time a tree is ready, it’s likely been on our farm for 6-8 years. So many things have to happen to bring that tree to the “ready” stage. The rain, or the lack of rain, either nourished or limited the growth of each evergreen over those seasons. Thankfully my dad installed a drip irrigation system years ago. Our Maryland summers have been so dry that we were starting to lose trees due to drought. The drip system curtailed that issue and our trees are thriving. 

We also keep an eye on the growth of each part of the tree. If the needles are looking yellow in color, it can be a sign that the soil needs some nutrition. My dad did have to step in this year and fertilize to help with growth, but that need is pretty rare. 

This particular year I’ve been really excited to show people how beautiful our Canaan Firs are looking. They’re between 5-7’ tall and gorgeous! But did you know that evergreens do not naturally have that Christmas cone-shape? They have to be pruned. When I look at each one, I think about my dad in the heat of the summer pruning each tree to perfection. It’s a labor of love to get that hard-earned holiday look just right. 

Each year on our farm is different, and we never know what to expect from the weather or with insect infestations and tree diseases. Yet I can say that we love doing what we do because we love watching families walk away with a tree that they love, and we got to raise it. It’s a family tradition for us, too!