How To Start a (Profitable) Christmas Tree Farm From Scratch

Written by Sophia Roa in Tree Farming

Imagine the satisfaction of providing families with a centerpiece for their holiday celebrations while also creating a sustainable business for yourself. Starting a Christmas tree farm can be a lucrative business, especially when you consider that 25–30 million trees are sold each year in the U.S. alone. In this article, we've outlined the steps that will lay the foundation for a profitable Christmas tree farm.

To start a profitable Christmas tree farm, conduct market research, develop a business plan, and select a suitable location. Prepare the land, choose appropriate tree species, and manage ongoing maintenance. Anticipate startup costs and explore funding options. Plan for a 7-10 year growth period before the first significant harvest and sale.

The requirements and costs to start a Christmas tree farm are outlined below, along with information on profitable farm grants, typical land size and number of acres required, number of Christmas trees per acre, truckload value, profit per acre, and average profit you can expect to earn once you establish a business.


  • Conduct market research to understand customer preferences and competition, develop a detailed business plan including financial projections, and choose a suitable location with appropriate soil and climate conditions for Christmas tree growth.
  • Acquire necessary land (1–20 acres), prepare it by clearing and soil testing, select and plant the right tree species, and implement an effective farm layout for efficient operation.
  • Christmas trees typically take 7–10 years to reach a marketable size, requiring ongoing maintenance such as pruning, pest control, and fertilization.
  • Anticipate initial startup costs (ranging from $2,750 to $262,000 depending on farm size), explore funding options like grants and loans, and plan for potential profits and ongoing costs.
  • Develop strategies for harvesting, sales, and marketing, and ensure legal compliance with agricultural and business regulations. Continuously assess and adapt your Christmas tree farm to market demands and industry trends.
Starting A Christmas Tree Farm Quick Facts
Startup costs (small to large farm) $2,750 to $262,000
Size of land needed 10 to 20 acres
Number of Christmas trees per acre 1,200 to 1,500 trees
First significant harvest 7 to 10 years
Average revenue potential $80,000 to $120,000 per year
Ongoing costs $8,000 to $18,000 per year
Average profit potential $72,000 to $102,000 per year

Conduct Market Research and Develop a Business Plan

Understand your local market, including customer preferences and competition. Identify the types of Christmas trees in demand and their pricing.

Outline your business goals, target market, operational strategy, and financial projections. Include plans for marketing, sales, and potential expansion. Determine startup costs, projected revenues, cash flow needs, etc.

How long it takes to start a Christmas tree farm

Year What To Do
1 Land preparation like clearing, soil testing, irrigation installation
2 Planting seedlings or transplants; care includes weeding, spraying
3–7 Heavy maintenance of young trees: pruning, shearing, pest control
7–10 Light maintenance as trees mature; may sell smaller number
10–12 Trees reach harvestable size; farm starts full production
Ongoing Harvest, replanting cycles every 7–15 years as fields rotate
  • Initial preparation: The first year involves land preparation, planting seedlings, and setting up infrastructure. This phase can take several months, depending on land size and condition.
  • Tree growth: Trees typically take 7–10 years to reach a marketable size (6-8 feet). This duration varies with species and growth conditions.
  • Ongoing maintenance: Regular maintenance like pruning, pest control, and soil care is ongoing from year one.
  • First harvest: Expect the first significant harvest in 7–10 years, but this can vary. Some farmers start selling smaller trees in 4–6 years to generate early income.
  • Full operation: Establishing the farm as a fully operational business might take a few years after the first harvest, as you streamline sales, marketing, and operational processes.

Cost of starting a Christmas tree farm

Starting a Christmas tree farm costs between $2,750 and $262,000 depending on the size of your farm. Costs include land, seedlings, equipment, labor, and more. Fixed costs (like land) and variable costs (like seedlings) should be considered​​.

Choose the Right Location and the Appropriate Tree Species

Select a site with suitable climatic conditions for growing Christmas trees. Ideal properties include moderate-to-well-drained sandy loam soils.

Choose species that are in demand and suitable for your region's climate. Popular choices include Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir, Noble Fir, and Research the types of evergreen trees that thrive in your area. Not every tree will work, as some may dry out quickly when cut, leading to a less-than-ideal appearance come Christmas day.

Aside from selecting the right tree species and location, it's essential to prepare the land, and plan tree spacing and harvesting strategy. For a more comprehensive list, you can consult this detailed guide on Christmas tree farm requirements.

Fastest growing Christmas tree

Fraser Fir is the fastest-growing species suitable for Christmas tree farms. It is native to high elevation areas of eastern North America, and is known for its strong branches that hold ornaments well and classic Christmas tree shape.

Fraser Fir matures more quickly than similar noble fir or Douglas fir trees. It can reach harvestable size of 6–8 feet tall in as little as 7–10 years.

Acquire Land

Depending on your scale, you may need 1–20 acres or more. Smaller farms can start on 1–2 acres, while larger operations can aim for 10–40 acres of land. Consider soil quality, water access, and climate.

An average Christmas tree farm spans 10–20 acres, accommodating around 1,500 trees per acre. Land size can be defined by the number of trees, tree spacing, and the desired farm layout.

A small Christmas tree farm can start on 1–2 acres, while larger operations might need 10 acres or more. The more land you have, the more profitable the operation can become, allowing you to potentially expand your tree offerings and attract a larger customer base. If you're interested in growing various types of Christmas trees, plan for enough land to accommodate multiple tree species and sizes.

Prepare the Land

Clear and grade the land as needed. Conduct soil testing and amend the soil to meet the requirements of your chosen tree species. Clear vegetation, test soil, add amendments if needed, and set up an irrigation system.

Christmas tree farm layout

  1. Planning: Create a detailed layout plan considering land size, topography, and accessibility. This includes entry points, parking areas, and pathways for customers.
  2. Spacing: Allocate appropriate space for each tree (usually 5–10 feet apart) to ensure adequate sunlight and growth room. Include space for pathways and equipment movement.
  3. Irrigation system: Design an efficient irrigation system, considering tree spacing and terrain. Drip or overhead sprinklers are common choices.
  4. Sections for different species: Segment the farm into different areas for various tree species, if growing more than one type.
  5. Harvesting and loading zones: Designate areas for cutting, bundling, and loading trees. Ensure these areas are easily accessible.
  6. Visitor amenities: If open to the public, include visitor-friendly amenities like rest areas, refreshment stands, and restrooms.

Secure Funding

Consider various financing options, including loans, personal savings, and grants. Look into specific agricultural or forestry grants that might be available.

Grants to start a Christmas tree farm

Various grants are available to fund a Christmas tree farm, covering land acquisition, equipment, and operational expenses. Programs include USDA grants, loan programs, and conservation initiatives. Grant applications typically require a detailed business plan and proof of land ownership or leasing rights​​.

Here's a comprehensive guide to the most lucrative grants for your tree farm.

Before applying for grants, it's essential to research and understand the eligibility criteria for each grant program. Be sure to provide all required documentation and demonstrate how your Christmas tree farm aligns with the grant's objectives. Some grants may prioritize specific regions, agricultural practices, or target groups (e.g., minority-owned businesses).

Purchase Christmas Tree Seedlings and Plan Tree Spacing

Buy high-quality seedlings from reputable nurseries. The cost can vary depending on the species and quantity.

Space trees appropriately based on species, usually 6x6 feet. Tree density and spacing also depend on site location, soil type, and tree species chosen​​.

How many Christmas trees per acre

It is important to find a balance that maximizes the number of trees without overcrowding them, as overcrowded trees might not grow properly and could lead to a smaller harvest. The number of Christmas trees you can plant per acre ranges from 1,200 to 1,500 trees.

To help you achieve an optimal tree farm operation, you may want to plan for various tree sizes and plant them in designated areas, allowing you to accommodate different customer preferences and budgets.

Implement and Manage Irrigation and Fertilization

Set up an irrigation system if necessary and plan a fertilization schedule to ensure the healthy growth of your trees.

Implement effective pest control strategies and regularly inspect trees for signs of disease or infestation.

Maintain the Trees and Plan for Harvesting and Sales

Regularly prune and shape trees to maintain their aesthetic appeal and health. Prune, fertilize, and control pests and weeds regularly for 7–10 years to see positive cash flow.

Develop a strategy for harvesting and selling your trees. Consider direct sales, wholesale, or online marketing. Cut trees 7–10 years after planting. Sell wholesale or retail from a farm or stand.

Value of a truckload of Christmas trees

You can harvest 350–450 trees per truckload. A truckload of Christmas trees can cost between $5,000 and $15,000, influenced by species, size, and quality. Uniform trees command higher prices than less uniform ones. The price is also affected by factors like transportation costs, tree quality, and the supplier's location​​.

Christmas tree farm profit per acre

Profit calculation involves subtracting production costs from total revenue. For instance, selling 1,500 trees at $60 each on 1 acre yields $90,000. If production costs are $22,000, the profit would be $68,000 per acre​​. The total value of Christmas trees sold in the U.S. each year is estimated to be around $2.04 billion.

For a more detailed resource on the profit per acre of a Christmas tree farm, here's our article with sample calculations.

To minimize expenses and maximize profitability, you should be proactive in managing your farm. This includes selecting the right species of trees, implementing efficient land use, and carefully considering labor costs. Furthermore, you may diversify your farm with additional income streams, such as selling related products or offering agritourism experiences.

Market Your Farm

Develop marketing after 7–10 years, when the farm is commercially viable. Use various marketing strategies to promote your farm. This could include social media, local advertising, and participation in community events. Create a farm name, website, and signage. Advertise locally for "cut your own" customers.

Average profit of a Christmas tree farm

In 2023, the average revenue potential for a Christmas tree farm was between $80,000 and $120,000 annually, while the profit potential ranges from $76,000 to $114,000 per year, assuming 1,000–1,500 trees sold at an average price of $80 per tree. Ongoing costs include irrigation, pest control, and labor, ranging from $8,000 to $18,000 per year​​.

Obtain necessary permits and licenses and ensure compliance with local agricultural and business regulations. May need zoning approval, a nursery license, or a sales tax permit, depending on the location.

Regularly review your business performance and make adjustments as necessary. Stay informed about industry trends and best practices.

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