It is the season when tradition rules and for many families there is no tradition more prized than the annual trip to the Christmas tree farm to find and harvest the perfect tree to celebrate the season.
While Kansas might not spring to mind as the optimum place for growing trees, there is a thriving Christmas tree farming industry in the state.
Delp Tree Farm in St. John, which this year supplied the tree for the governor's office in the state capitol building in Topeka, has the distinction of being the first Christmas Tree Farm in Kansas. It was founded almost 55 years ago by Cecil Delp and is now operated by his grandson, Joel and his wife Sarah, with help from Joel's parents Tony and Linda.
A Christmas experience
Delp Tree Farm offers nearby customers the opportunity to visit the farm, get a picture with Santa and enjoy hot cider and cocoa and shop the tree farm store for wreaths, garlands and other Christmas favorites.
For those customers who live too far away to shop the store, Delp offers Internet purchases and shipping of trees.
Tony Delp says the farm has downsized in recent years from its peak of 300,000 trees on 200 acres, which provided a full-time agriculture-based living for the family when his three sons were growing up.
Back in those days, the farm shipped trees to nurseries around the state and country and harvested between 10,000 and 12,000 trees every year.
Unique tree offerings
Delp Farm is also unique among the primarily Scotch Pine, Austrian Pine and Southwestern White Pine varieties typical of Kansas tree farms in that he grows a variety of firs, especially Douglas fir, Concolor fir and Canaan fir.
"My dad tried the Concolor firs back about 45 years ago and, once started, they did fairly well, even without irrigation water. About 30 years ago, I put in irrigation and this allowed us to successfully grow firs for Christmas trees. They seem to do well under irrigation. Now, we sell more firs than anything else. The Concolor firs are a white fir and they have exceptional needle retention, which makes them really popular," he said. "Indoors, they will easily last two months without dropping needles."
Read more about Delp Tree Farm and other Kansas Christmas tree farms in your December Kansas Farmer, arriving in your mailbox any day now.