THE Richmond Christmas Tree farm only opens its gates to the public one month of the year, and when it does, it becomes a regional hive of festive activity.
Owned and operated by Jared and Nat Medham, the couple have built an extremely seasonal, highly sought-after supply of house-ready pine trees, ready for customers to take to their home to create an authentic Christmas experience.
Based on Jared’s family farm in the Coal Valley, the couple have established their neat plantation with help from friends and family.
When they met in their mid-20s, farming was certainly not on their radar, yet in 2011, when the couple returned from living in Canada with their twin baby boys, Jack and Alex, they inherited a 10ha plot of land on the Medham property.
“We had zero aspirations of running a farm before that point but then suddenly we had a farm,” Nat said.
“We wanted a customer-facing business, because we knew that a short supply chain was a better avenue financially and environmentally,” Nat said.
“We researched all sorts of small-scale farm ideas like garlic, saffron and cut flowers, but ultimately we had baby twins and off-farm careers, so we wanted to grow something that wasn’t too fussy.”
It was the trips they took to Christmas tree farms around Vancouver that provided them the inspiration, their first 1000 trees going into the ground in 2012.
“It was going to be small scale and the short supply chain was key,” Jared said.
“But we also wanted to make sure we got into something where the product wasn’t perishable, and demand was only during a manageable period of the year.”
“For some reason the demand for Christmas trees is very seasonal!”
Today, their planting numbers have doubled, laying down 2000 trees a season and selling out their yearly supply months in advance of harvest.
“In between that first planting and now, we’ve significantly scaled up in terms of what we put into the farm,” Jared said.
“We are pruning the trees with a knife two to three times per year, watering and adding inputs, whilst also trying to reduce the amount of chemicals that we’re using to control weed growth.”
The business even has its own tree-recycling program too.
After between three and five years in the ground, and a few weeks in a happy family’s household, the Medhams offer to tree-cycle their old trees, mulching them for the next generation.
Across the first weeks of December, the farm opens its gates to the public, who crowd to collect their piece of Christmas cheer.
The event, so popular it needs to be ticketed, allows families to choose a tree suitable for their home.
Once they have found their dream tree, along comes Jared or his father, Neville, a quick saw, and away the tree goes.
Previous years have seen lines out the gate, with food vans, coffee and even Christmas puddings sold at the site, really nailing home the festive vibe.
Jared and Nat are now eyeing off their next adventure.
“We’ve built a kick-ass business that has started a frenzy of love for real Christmas trees here and we’re really proud of that,” said Nat
“But by then we will have been growing trees for 15 years, it’ll be time to move on to a new project.”