When it comes to Christmas trees, Wayne Duver and his family are experts. They have been growing Christmas trees in the Coffs region for over a decade, supplying local families with Christmas cheer year after year.
What is your connection to the Coffs Coast?
We moved here in 2002 from the UK, where I had lived for the past 18 years with my wife and two children, Kimberley and Andrew. First we went to my family farm in Victoria, but we were keen to go somewhere warmer and the Coffs Harbour region seemed ideal, so we started our search for a property here. We were lucky to find an ideal properly, close to good schools and an airport.
Can you tell us how you came about growing and selling Christmas trees?
Our first venture was growing strawberries on the farm. However, we soon realised that Queensland produces large amounts of strawberries at the same time of year, so prices were very unstable and we needed to find a new venture. For our first Christmas, I found a tree off the roadside, and my wife complained that it didn’t smell like Christmas. The second year she spent a fortune on buying a ridiculously expensive tree from a garden centre, which had floppy branches and not many needles. I found a supplier of root stock trees that were suitable for Christmas trees, but had to buy 500 of them. That was the start of the business. We eventually stopped growing strawberries and continued with just the trees. We now have around 25 acres of them.
How long have you been servicing the Coffs Coast?
We began selling our trees at the local markets and direct to the public from the farm in 2006. Families seemed to love being able to come out to the farm and pick their own tree, so this is the area we concentrated on. Many children who came out to the farm as very young children are now teenagers, and they know exactly what makes a good tree and where the best trees are in the paddock.
Picking up the Christmas tree is a ritual of the season. It may not be a case of trekking into the snowy woods, boots crunching on frozen ground to the distant sounds of carols, but there is still a buzz of excitement about the trip to our farm for many local families, who return year after year.
How many people are employed at Coramba farms?
It is just me most of the time. When the children were at home, they also helped out, especially during the busy Christmas season. Occasionally, we have students who stay with us and help us out. My wife also helps when she has to; she is a school teacher, so tells me she is always busy marking and preparing lessons. In December she has no excuses not to help, as her reports are done and her lessons are all prepared; I think she enjoys being with the many children who come to the farm!
What is the process from start to finish when it comes to growing Christmas trees?
We buy the trees as root stock and plant them out in the winter. It is important to take soil samples before planting, to ensure we provide the trees with the perfect conditions for optimal growth.
Too much fertiliser is a waste of money, and nutrients can leach out and cause environmental problems, and too little will result in trees with weak branches that are susceptible to disease. We then have to prune them regularly and ensure they are the perfect shape, and weed them to ensure the trees do not have any competition for nutrients and water. We take great pride in the sustainable nature of our business. Over the years, our soils have improved dramatically, and we can see the result of this in the improvement in the consistency of our trees.
Why should you buy a real Christmas tree and not a plastic one?
The first thing to remember is that, rather than being virgin forest, Christmas trees are a crop like any other, albeit one with a long rotation time. They are also biodegradable and recyclable. Once a tree is cut down, we check the soil nutrient status and then replant a new tree nearby the following winter.
Artificial trees are sometimes sold as the greener option, the argument being that they may be used for many years. However, they are typically plastic based and there are pollution implications in their manufacture and disposal. They are not biodegradable or recyclable and most end up in landfill, taking hundreds of years to break down. Furthermore, they are usually made in China and transported to Australia, burning fossil fuels in the process. Studies have shown that an artificial tree would have to be used for more than 20 years to be a greener option than buying a fresh-cut tree once a year.
What makes the perfect Christmas tree?
A nice straight trunk with a full stem of bushy green leaves. Stiff branches to hang ornaments from, and that magnificent pine smell that fills the house. They also need to be that perfect Christmas tree shape.
What’s the best way to care for your Christmas tree?
As our trees are living, it is important that they have a constant supply of water. If the tree has been cut down for several hours, it is a good idea to cut about 2 cm off the base of the trunk, as sap tends to seal the base and prevent the uptake of water. Once this is done, put the tree in a bucket of water with stones around it to hold it up, and then decorate the bucket with wrapping paper. Decorate the tree and top up the water in the bucket every couple of days. If you do this they should last at least four weeks (many people tell us theirs last for six weeks).
Many people come out to the farm and purchase their tree early; we will tag the tree and leave it growing until two – three weeks before Christmas. We will open for the last two weekends in November (10am – 4 pm) for tagging trees and then will start cutting them down for people in December. In December we are open from 10am – 5 pm on weekends and from 4 – 6pm on weekdays.
We have thousands to choose from, but the earlier you come out, the more chance you have got of getting the very best trees.
Our web site is www.northcoastchristmastrees.com.au and you can also find us on Facebook “North Coast Christmas Trees”.