Christmas without a tree: Drought bites festive farm at Mulgoa, with tree sales cancelled

Mark Ford with trees that have been growing for two years. Photo: Megan Dunn
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For more than 20 years locals have celebrated the start of the festive season by getting a tree from the Glenmore Christmas Tree Farm, but things won’t be the same this year.

The Mulgoa-based farm has closed its doors for the upcoming holiday season, as its trees struggle to grow in harsh drought conditions.

Operating since the mid 90’s, the farm was growing about 16,000 Pinus Radiata trees in its prime, but after the 2001 Christmas Day fires burnt their remaining crop to the ground, they have struggled with on-and-off drought conditions.

“With those bushfires, we not only lost our trees but we also lost our irrigation gear, so we haven’t replaced that for a lot of reasons but mainly because irrigation doesn’t do a lot here because it only works when we’ve got water in the dams but in drought times they are dry,” owner Mark Ford said.

“We’ve got around 3000 planted right now, none are ready for this year, the larger ones have been growing for seven years but they aren’t saleable because the drought made them very sparse.”

In ideal conditions, Pinus Radiata trees take about four years to grow full size. In current conditions, it’s taking over seven years.

The trees planted seven years ago should be ready for harvest next year.

Mark Ford tends to his crop at Mulgoa. Photo: Megan Dunn

“We think they’ll need at least another year, we don’t want to sell anything that isn’t up to scratch so unfortunately people around here are going to miss out unless they want to travel,” Mr Ford said.

Unfortunately the crop planted two years ago is currently half the size it’s supposed to be, and the most recent crop, planted during winter this year, is struggling most, with some plants having already died.

There are two dams on the property, both of which are completely bone dry.

Meanwhile, Luddenham’s Top Shape Live Christmas Trees closed its doors last year after the re-alignment of The Northern Road and Elizabeth Drive forced it to cease trading from its location.

Kemps Creek Christmas Tree Farm was also closed for last year after undergoing regeneration.

Neither will trade this season.

Glenmore Christmas Tree Farm will be selling some trees for next year’s Christmas season but will be forced to close again in 2021 as the smaller crops continue their battle in this summer’s blistering heat.

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