A banner year for Christmas tree farms

UPPER FREEHOLD, N.J. - November 30, 2011

"The rain through the summer believe it or not hurt other people and other crops but it certainly helped the Christmas trees," said Joe. "This year they have plenty of growth. I think some of them probably grew 16 inches this year, which is quite a lot for a tree."

And a far cry from LAST year, when 80% of Keris' seedlings died because of drought.

New Jersey has about 1,100 Christmas tree farms spread throughout the state. Farmers will sell at least 180,000 trees this season and they're gearing up now for the December rush.

At the Keris Christmas Tree farm just off Interstate 195 in Upper Freehold, Monmouth County, some people have already walked the 24 acres and tagged a tree to save it.

"Some people like them fat," said Maggie Keris. "Some people like them skinny. It's just what people like. But definitely you want good color, you want it to be nice and full, you want it to be able to hold ornaments."

It takes 8 to 10 years to grow a 6-foot Christmas tree. Starting in June, every tree here is sheared and shaped so that when December rolls around customers can cut their own or choose from a variety of others.

"It's very rewarding growing the trees," said Joe. "Every one of them is like my children."

"We've been doing this for 22 years and we really enjoy it," said Maggie.

Prices vary from farm to farm depending on height and variety. The Kerises charge $9.50 a foot and hope that every tree of theirs baled and brought home is as special to the family taking it as it was to them while growing it.

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