Cloverdale’s only Christmas tree farmer says, ‘It’s not as easy as people think’

Cloverdale’s only Christmas tree farmer says, ‘It’s not as easy as people think’

Running a Christmas tree farm has an element of science, an element of good stress relief

Armstrong Creek Christmas Tree Farm is easy to pass by, located down the quiet back road of 190th Street, hidden just around the corner from the busy Potter’s Nursery.

After all, in the early weeks of November, tree-farming hobbyist Peter Bladt is still getting ready for the season. Close to 3,000 trees, hand-pruned back in August, are growing contentedly in their fields — a different layout than a typical tree farm, as Bladt’s plots of firs and spruce are nestled between woodsy valleys and cedar trees.

“It’s not a normal field; it’s not a normal operation,” Bladt said.

Bladt and his wife have been growing Christmas trees on their 5.5 acre Cloverdale property since 1995. Every winter, between 300 and 400 families wander down a path that meanders through Bladt’s back acres, crossing over a burbling salmon stream before passing by two of Bladt’s three tree fields.

“Some people of course complain that they have to walk so far for a Christmas tree,” Bladt said, “but you’ll never forget this tree: cutting it, working hard to get it back to the car.”

Of course, in November, those fields aren’t quite ready for visitors. Bladt still needs to chop down a number of unhappy trees before the start of the holiday tree season — a by-product of Bladt’s natural approach to tree farming, where he doesn’t spray the trees with pesticides throughout the season.

“If I’m a big farmer, and I’m trying to make a living off of it, you have to use different practices,” he said. “That’s just the way it goes.”

The Noble Firs tend to get root rot, a fungus which attacks tree roots in poorly drained soil. Many trees become favourite targets of black-tailed deer during the rutting season, when the deer rub their antlers against the trees, shearing them of branches and bark. Some trees succumb to aphids, and others died during the summer drought.

Last year, Bladt had to cut down around 100 trees; he expects it to be more this year.

“You have all these challenges; it’s not as easy as people think,” he said.

“Like I said, it’s just my hobby. But growing Christmas trees is a science.”

Over the last 22 years, Bladt has found a couple of Christmas tree varieties that can grow well on his property: the Grand Fir, a strongly scented evergreen that is native to B.C.’s coast; the Norway Spruce, a fast-growing tree with wide spaces between its branches; and the Nordmann Fir, a Northeastern Russian tree that Bladt thinks will become the most popular variety on his farm.

“The public at large is not really familiar with that Nordmann Fir type,” he said. “It’s the number one Christmas tree selling in Europe though.”

According to Bladt, Nordmanns have “incredible needle retention.” He even told one story of a woman who kept her Nordmann Fir until July 1 and re-decorated the tree for each new holiday — although by then the needles had all turned brown.

Someday soon, Bladt expects to only be selling those three types of trees. But next year, he may not have any trees to sell at all.

“I have huge, I call them holes,” he said. “You want trees from the seedling stage all the way up to the 10-footers.”

Each year, Bladt plants 350 seedlings to make up for the trees that had been cut down on his farm that holiday season. In March and April, he plants the two-year-old trees around his farm. For the next five to 10 years, he watches as they grow to the popular six-foot height and then sell as Christmas trees.

For five years in a row, Bladt was unable to nurture enough seedlings. One year, the seedlings died because of drought; another year, the rain brought on mildew and death for the seedlings. And two years saw administrative issues with his suppliers that prevented Bladt from getting new trees at all.

“This might be our last Christmas season for two or three years to come,” Bladt said.

He’s already shortened the season this year — he normally opens the last weekend of November, but this year won’t open until the beginning of December — and is bringing in pre-cut trees from other farms.

“When they are all gone, probably next year there’s going to be no trees,” he said. “But I knew that.”

After all, 62-year-old Bladt isn’t in this for the business.

“It’s a nice hobby, good stress relief,” he said. “They don’t talk to me. They don’t poop. They don’t need feed.”

“I look forward to retiring someday, and just do this.”

ChristmasChristmas treeCloverdale

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Peter Bladt has between 2,500 and 3,000 trees on his South Cloverdale farm, but likely won’t be able to open the next four holiday seasons. Several years of drought, flooding and administrative issues have impacted his supply of tall trees, which means it will take several more years to grow. (Grace Kennedy photo)

Peter Bladt has between 2,500 and 3,000 trees on his South Cloverdale farm, but likely won’t be able to open the next four holiday seasons. Several years of drought, flooding and administrative issues have impacted his supply of tall trees, which means it will take several more years to grow. (Grace Kennedy photo)

Just Posted

Chief Constable Norm Lipinski, Surrey Police Service. (Submitted photo)
Surrey chief constable says ‘comprehensive’ public engagement to be done this year

Norm Lipinski says Surrey Police Service has ‘good momentum’

Dyllan Petrin is charged related to an ongoing investigation in Surrey involving a kidnapping and assault that occurred in July, 2019. (Photo: Surrey RCMP)
Man arrested in connection to kidnapping, murder investigations: Surrey RCMP

Police say Dyllan Petrin was arrested in Vancouver

Crews work to clear the aftermath of a three-vehicle collision that occurred Wednesday morning (Jan. 20, 2021) at the intersection of 16 Avenue and 156 Street. (Tracy Holmes photo)
One person to hospital following three-vehicle collision in South Surrey

Police say it appears one driver went through intersection ‘as if it was not even there’

Surrey-raised forward Jujhar Khaira in action with Edmonton Oilers. (Photo: nhl.com)
Q&A: Surrey’s Jujhar Khaira credits parents for their hard work on his path to NHL

Port Kells-raised player talks about his journey to pro hockey with Edmonton Oilers

New United States Vice President Kamala Harris (left) and President Joe Biden (right) are sworn in at U.S. inauguration ceremonies Wednesday morning in Washington, D.C.. (Saul Loeb/Pool photos via AP)
Surrey Board of Trade highlights innovation, policy changes as new U.S. president sworn in

COVID-19, border re-opening among issues affecting city, SBOT says

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
1-in-5 COVID tests coming back positive in and around Fernie, sparking concern

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

Ralliers gather in front of the Cityviews Village apartment building in Maple Ridge to protest attempts to evict low-income tenants by the building owner. (Ronan O’Doherty - The News)
Tenants protest pressure tactics by new landlord at Maple Ridge apartment building

Protest held in front of Cityviews Village on 223 St. Tuesday to rally against low-income evictions

Throughout December, RCMP conducted CounterAttack road checks as police worked to keep roads free of impaired drivers. (BLACK PRESS file photo)
‘You can’t make this stuff up’: Stories from the B.C. CounterAttack campaign

Amusing, yes, but a reminder impaired driving affects ability to drive and to make good decisions

Most Read