We Are Pure Catskills: Robson's Christmas Trees

Family tradition is at the very heart of Robson's Christmas Trees, a cut-your-own tree farm located in Bovina, NY. The Robson family has been growing Christmas trees since the 1950s, providing their neighbors and visitors a place to start and maintain their own family tradition.

In the video clip above, Gary and MJ Robson talk about the rewards of running a small family farm -- and about how Pure Catskills has helped them connect with the market for local, sustainably-raised farm products.

Gary: My grandfather had a large farm down the valley and had bought this land, in I think the mid to late 40s. And, many of the fields were open at that time. So, my parents began planting Christmas trees in the 50s.

The New York State Conservation Department had programs where evergreen seedlings were quite inexpensive, and they were promoting the planting of trees for lumber and wildlife and Christmas trees. So, my parents were planting thousands of trees a year.

The plan was to sell all of them, of course, but there wasn't a large market for thousands and thousands of Christmas trees, so they sold fifty a year or a hundred a year.

MJ: They had somebody else trimming them, and for a great deal of it, selling them also.

Gary: In the early 70s, we built the cabin that we lived in with the logs from that, and then we began planting trees in '83. It's maybe 8 to 12 years after you plant before you can sell trees. So, probably by the mid-90s we were selling trees again.

MJ: We got more and more away from any kind of retail situation, and more and more into having this more as a place for families to come and pick out their tree and have a fun day.

Gary: We don't wholesale trees -- that's a completely different operation, where you have to produce huge amounts of trees and then deal with the markets in the city and the trucking. So we seem to have fine-tuned how many we sell, because you still want to have seven- and eight-foot trees for the next year also.

The prices range from $20 to $50. The majority are $30 to $40, which we think is quite reasonable, considering the quality of the tree and that they're fir trees.

We advertise in some papers, but we don't have a website. Because of our involvement with Pure Catskills, if people search, they come to the Pure Catskills website, and then our information is on there and they can find us that way.

MJ: People are impressed when they see that you're a member of Pure Catskills.

Gary: The Watershed Agricultural Council helped us with a forestry plan, and paid for a forester to develop a long-term plan for maintaining our forest land and helping with a logging operation.

MJ: We wanted to do something so that keeping the land intact wasn't a drain on our personal finances.

Gary: There's an old saying around that the last crop is houses. We've enjoyed keeping the fields for agriculture rather than selling them into building lots.

Pure Catskills is a regional, buy local campaign developed by the Watershed Agricultural Council.