December 17, 2017
Licking Creek Bend Farm Embraces ‘Stump Culture’ to Grow Sustainable Trees, Fight
With another Christmas season upon us, we have an opportunity to enjoy–and be mindful–of the holiday traditions that we hold near and dear. With Christmas tunes playing, cookies baking, and cocoa on the stove, many will put up a lush, twinkling tree in their home. With the season of giving upon us, Fair Farms examines how we can honor this tradition while still being guided by sustainability.
Move Towards Buying Sustainably Grown
Mike Tabor, of Licking Creek Bend Farm, has been at the forefront of the sustainable Christmas tree movement for over 30 years. This movement promotes trees grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or added colorant. With a scarcity of such trees available to consumers, Tabor has seen customers drive all the way from South Carolina to his farm in Needmore, PA to purchase one of his ecologically grown trees.
The practices Mike employs at his farm lead to natural, healthy and fresh trees at an affordable price, despite the substantial manual labor needed to support their growth. Mike’s main customer base are eco-conscious consumers, and Tabor believes there is a greater consumerism problem that leads to the demand for non-sustainable trees.
Embrace a ‘Charlie Brown Tree’
About 10 years ago, Tabor wondered what would happen if he cut some trees above several tiers of branches, and let the remaining stumps regenerate over the coming years. What he found was that with an already established root system, some varieties of tree–such as the douglas fir–would grow from a stump. He later found out that this process was part of a larger movement called Stump Culture.
The “stump culture” trees, however, were unlike the picturesque, bright green we think of when we imagine the “perfect” Christmas tree. Tabor grows some varietals on his farm that, no matter how well-trimmed and pruned, just aren’t “pretty” by conventional standards. However, Tabor notes, this uniformity among trees is entirely unnatural, so we should change the conversation around what a holiday tree should look like. We could all learn a thing or two from Charlie Brown.
The Environmental Conversation
For Mike, growing Christmas trees is one way to address the greater environmental problems facing our world today. He uses trees as a means of addressing carbon emissions and sequestration. Carbon sequestration is the process by which carbon is taken out of the atmosphere and stored in either the ocean, geologic formations, or vegetation (such as coniferous trees). Growing trees for a local consumer base also addresses the climate change implications of transporting trees from the Pacific Northwest.
Even a small plot of trees on a farm can turn an underutilized space into a habitat for more animal species, as well as serving as a biological control on erosion. Tabor believes that there are myriad benefits for farmers when they grows trees on their own land.
Encouraging other Farmers to Grow Sustainable Trees
Tabor encourages farmers who focus on produce but have portions of their land that are either hilly, made up of majority clay soil, or inaccessible to irrigation to experiment with growing trees. In addition to the environmental contribution and agricultural diversity, raising trees is a way for farmers to extend their growing season.
Growing trees the green way isn’t always the easiest. Tabor notes that when you don’t use herbicides and you have to trim up to 5 times a season, the trees can be a labor of love: love for his farm, customers, and the planet. Tabor is is committed to selling his trees at a reasonable average cost of $40-$50 per tree.
This Christmas season, let’s turn our sustainability mindset towards the purchase of a tree that’s green in more ways than one and support farmers like Mike Tabor who are growing for the future. May your tree be twinkly and your holidays warm!
For more information about Mike Tabor and Licking Creek Bend Farms, you can visit http://www.lickingcreekbendfarm.com/