This feature on Farmer Ricky is part of Loudoun Economic Development’s award-winning Farmer Trading Card series, spotlighting farmers as heroes to our community. For more information on the Farmer Trading Card 2024 starting lineup, please visit Loudoun Farms.

Have you ever thought about how short the strawberry harvest season is? As the first fruit available from Loudoun Farms in springtime, it’s a hallmark of the seasons changing and the bountiful harvest that’s to come – but it only lasts a few short weeks.

A whole year of preparation goes into preparing the soil, selecting the seeds, planting, nurturing and harvesting. Then they’re gone.

The same short harvest window applies to Christmas trees at the end of the growing season for Loudoun Farms. The county is home to more than a dozen tree farms specializing in the holiday varietals, and are some of the closest to Washington, D.C., that offer the unique experience of selecting and cutting your own.

These farms are traditionally open to customers around Thanksgiving and are only open on weekends through the middle of December. Some farms only open for a weekend of two, and some don’t open at all.

Why the limited shopping window?

Unlike produce farmers, who make decisions months in advance, tree farmers must forecast for demand years or even decades in advance. As a result, tree farmers limit the number of trees sold each year, aiming to sell around 10% of their inventory to stay on a sustainable cycle.

Rainfall, blights and insects, as well as the availability of labor, can have a ripple effect for years, and change a farmer’s calculations. The long view is usually the best perspective.

“A lot of people have the misconception that I plant the trees in March and they’re ready to cut in December,” Farmer Ricky Hoybach explained from his fields at Country Loving Christmas Tree Farm, nestled between Brambleton and Creighton Farms. “I’ve learned to have patience. It takes many hours of attention per tree each year, and over a decade to grow a Christmas tree.”

Farmer Ricky got into the Christmas tree business because of his love for the holiday season, something he cultivates all year long.

“I love all of the holidays, the time with family, and making traditions,” he explained. “We started planting here in about 2000, but it took us 10 years to open the gates.”

So how has Farmer Ricky managed the downtime? He pairs County Loving Christmas Tree Farm with his other business, American Lawn Brothers, which he started in 1985. The two businesses work symbiotically between the seasons.

“Our Christmas tree farm offers me the opportunity to get fresh air and exercise while being productive,” Farmer Ricky explained. “Also, Christmas tree farming is a way to offer my employees from American Lawn Brothers a ton of hours during what is traditionally the off-season for most landscapers and farmers.”

Starting in 2020, there was a nationwide surge in demand for Christmas trees, as families looked to start or rekindle traditions during the pandemic. This has resulted in the sales of real Christmas trees increasing by about 20% to 25-30 million each year.

In the heart of Loudoun County, Country Loving Tree Farm has enjoyed a loyal customer base for 18 years, many of whom come out each year to celebrate the holiday season. Even though he only sees them once per year, he likes playing a role in their family traditions.

“Farming is hard work, but it’s fun when I get to see all the families come back year after year. We are family-owned and operated, and enjoy sharing the Christmas spirit with families,” he explained. “We have seen many of the same faces every December for years. It is amazing to see how fast the kids grow up.”

Farmer Ricky and his team oversee a robust variety of evergreens, including White Pine, Scotch Pine, Norway Spruce and Cedar trees. In addition to choose-and-cut trees, customers can also purchase fresh-made wreaths, garlands and other festive holiday greens.

Once the holiday season passes, the cycle of sustainability continues, as families can donate their trees back to Loudoun Farms.

“In January, when you’re done with your tree, you don’t have to put it in a landfill,” Farmer Ricky said. “Take all the ornaments off and donate the tree to area farms with pigs and goats who will eat the trees.”

If you’d like to meet and support Farmer Ricky, please visit the Country Loving Christmas Tree Farm website and follow the farm on Facebook for seasonal availability.

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