Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree, How Lovely Is Thy Climate Resiliency


Terry Brown, owner of Brown’s Tree Farm, welcomed me warmly into his modest farmhouse. We sat at the kitchen table in straight backed chairs, and looked out a large window at rows of fir trees outside, a red barn in the distance.

By Grennan Milliken | MOTHERBOARD

The whole scene was awash in wispy, dry snow flurries. In the coming days and weeks, these trees would find themselves inside homes all over Chemung County, in Upstate New York. I had come to speak with him about the challenges of the Christmas tree business, and if he’s concerned that it will get harder due to climate change.

He recalled some of his greatest trials growing trees over the years. “A few years ago, I had this whole field—at least 2/3rds of it—full of Douglas fir. And they were beautiful. Then a virus came through—it was called,” he paused a moment to retrieve the name from memory, “the Swiss needle cast—and it wiped em right out.” And in his first year planting—some 40 years ago—he lost 4,000 trees in a drought.

But while he’s concerned about climate change on the whole, as a farmer, he’s experienced see-saw weather patterns firsthand his whole life and is not entirely sure that it’s going to impact the tree growing business anytime soon.

“Things have definitely changed, you know, worldwide, and I understand the science of it, but as a lifelong farmer you always bounce back and say well ‘jeepers, I’ve seen this before.’ My dad is 94 and he’s seen it all before.”

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