In the Crop approach, thousands of trees are planted all at one time and gown in rows, much a crop of corn or tomatoes. When harvest time comes, large machinery cuts every tree in that row or field. The trees are then piled in huge stacks until shipping time, often a few weeks later.
Every tree gets cut and delivered, regardless. It’s efficient, and tens of thousands of trees can be grown and harvested in this manner. It’s the way most fresh cut Christmas Trees are grown, but it’s not the way to get the best and freshest tree.
In the Tree approach, a hillside is randomly scattered with trees, some very large, some young and some still seedlings. They’re not in rows; they are all different ages and different qualities, sort of like a forest. Each year, before the harvest begins, a team combs through these hillsides, evaluating every tree. Those that are ready for harvest, maybe ten percent, are tagged. The others are left to continue growing, to be evaluated again next year. As the trees are tagged, they are also graded, #1 grade, #2 grade and #3 grade.
Next comes the harvest. Since these trees are not in rows and only a few are being cut, it is a completely different process – and it involves a team of experienced workers and some very skilled helicopter operators.
As these selected tagged trees are cut they are moved by hand to a small clearing in the forest. There, they are piled onto large nets. The next step might be the most unexpected. Soon, a helicopter, no more than 50 feet off the ground, with a long cable and hook dangling, comes swooping in. In an instant, a worker on the ground connects the net’s corners to the hook and away they go sailing through the air. At the bottom of the hillside the pilot hardly slows down, releases the load, and turns back up the slope for the next load. At about $1,000 an hour, speed is everything. These helicopter pilots are incredibly skilled and watching this hour after hour is quite a sight.