The CLA is encouraging the public to buy locally-grown Christmas trees this festive season, in a bid to support rural businesses and boost the environment.
Christmas trees are bought in a relatively short period, usually starting from late November, though last year many families seemed particularly keen to start the festivities early as a tonic to the pandemic.
But trees require care throughout the year so that they keep the correct shape, with no distortions and are in perfect health for harvesting.
CLA South East represents thousands of farmers, landowners and rural businesses in Kent, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and the Isle of Wight.
Regional Director Tim Bamford said: “Buying a locally grown tree means that it may only have been cut a short time before arriving at the retailer, reducing the likelihood of needle drop.
“Buying local, whether it is Christmas trees or other seasonal festive produce, helps to contribute to a vibrant rural economy.
"There is certainly a wide variety of suppliers of local products in our area, from fruit and vegetable growers to award-winning sparkling wine producers.
“Many people will already be regular visitors to farm shops and farmers’ markets.
"These businesses provide jobs, goods and services for local communities, attract tourism and provide a real boost to our economy.
“Small Business Saturday, a campaign which highlights small business success and encourages consumers to shop local, takes place on the first Saturday in December.
"It provides an important impetus for consumers to support small businesses in their communities, not just in the run up to Christmas, but throughout the year.”
Grower case study
Hole Park, near Rolvenden in Kent, has been growing trees for the last 60 years.
The entire annual output of 15,000 trees is sold locally to smaller shops, garden centres and sole trader outlets in Kent, Sussex and South East London, with a small but important proportion retailed to customers coming to the yard.
The estate’s Edward Barham, a CLA member, said: “Many customers return year on year, with the selection of the tree part of the family tradition at Christmas.
“They know that they have a quality tree, where it came from and that it is fresh.
"Please look after your tree, by placing it in a water bearing stand and keep it topped up, away from direct heat.”
Mr Barham said problems at the docks, plant health and disease consideration, and the desire to support local and buy local are “key considerations” for many.
Tree-mendous species - need to know
Most popular are the Nordmann Fir, with a broad needle, an open habit and good needle retention characteristics but other species are available, particularly if you go direct to a local grower, who can be found on the British Christmas Tree Growers Association website (https://www.bctga.co.uk).
That way you know you will have a UK-grown tree, freshly cut and able to speak to the grower who has nurtured your perfect tree over as long as 10 years, depending on size.
A typical six-foot tree will be 8-10 years old.