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BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Jerome Suchor has deep roots in trees.

Over a 42-year career, including part-time work in high school at the Towner State Nursery and a stint as a field tech at Walhalla, his work led to brushes with a couple of North Dakota Christmas tree farms. In 1992, he started his own: Suchor’s Prairie Pines.

He began by planting Scotch pine. And then waited seven years.

“It’s a dying art. It does take a lot of work,” Suchor said. “It’s one of those things if you really want to get into it, you’ve got to put a lot of time into it.”

Over the years, he made the switch from Scotch pine to Colorado blue spruce and Black Hills spruce, which fare better in tough winters and aren’t bothered as much by deer.

Starting over Thanksgiving, people have been venturing out to select and cut their own Christmas trees.

“You can come and pick out your own. They’re fresh. It’s pretty neat for people,” Suchor said.

He’s not the only Tannenbaum tycoon in North Dakota, though the number of Christmas tree growers has declined, the Bismarck Tribune reported .

Paul Beck, of Minot, grew trees for decades until the 2011 Souris River flood. Now he ships trees to sell at Lowe’s Garden Center.

“We were growing up until 2011 and the flood took them out,” he said.

Margaux Lindsay and her husband, Shawn, inherited the Campbell Beach Farm near Cavalier after her father’s death. Their 5-acre farm has an extremely low inventory now and likely won’t have any trees for sale for at least six years. Growing a full-sized Christmas tree can take six to eight years.

“It’s a love of labor and a labor of love,” she said. “We have people who want a 20-foot tree. That takes 13 to 15 years.”

Mainly northeastern North Dakotans venture to the Lindsays to cut and choose a Christmas tree, though some folks journey from as far as Jamestown and Minot Air Force Base.

Lindsay said in the 1970s and ’80s, Christmas tree growers used to be plentiful in her neck of the woods.

“It’s kind of sad to see that tradition that’s gone by the wayside,” she said. “People are excited to come and cut their own tree.”

Her family’s and Craig Brumbaugh’s operations are the only ones left in the Cavalier area.

Brumbaugh has 70 acres just west of Cavalier where he grows Christmas trees. He has Scotch pine, white pine, balsam fir, Colorado blue spruce and Black Hills spruce.

He’s raised Christmas trees for 20 years and has worked with the North Dakota Forest Service, too.

“It just takes some TLC and from when you plant the trees, you have to maintain them, get them established,” Brumbaugh said. “The first couple years is pretty key.”

None of the growers said the statewide drought this year affected their operations. Suchor said he keeps his weed-free and lets Mother Nature tend his trees so they adapt to weather, while Lindsay said their trees, all established, lucked out.

“Had we had seedlings, it could have been problematic,” Lindsay said.

Though the Christmas tree market has changed from what it once was in North Dakota, Brumbaugh said he’s seen a spike in interest for families who want to make a Christmas memory by coming to cut their own tree.

“Most customers are families,” he said.

Wes Miller isn’t cutting trees for Christmas this year from his spread near Carrington. He mostly sells trees for plantings and respects the resources they give to wildlife, especially with declining habitat today.

“I don’t really like to see a Christmas tree cut unless one is planted for it,” he said. “I’d rather see it planted in someone’s yard and then enjoyed for many Christmases.”


Information from: Bismarck Tribune,