The Ottumwa Courier

Wapello County

November 29, 2012

Christmas trees getting Grinched this season

Three area tree farms shut down; farmers struggle with disease, drought

FAIRFIELD — Christmas trees may be leaning more toward the pitiful state of Charlie Brown’s tree this winter due to disease and the effects of this summer’s drought.

Barbara Kistler, who owns Kistler Tree Farm in Fairfield with her husband, Robert, said their trees are worsening due to disease and drought.

Disease has turned some of their trees’ needles brown and then the trees have died, she said, which began three to four years ago when Iowa saw wet winters. Their farm generally sells between 50 and 75 trees a year.

“But we’ve planted over 2,000 plugs in the last three years and they’re all dead,” she said. “And considering it takes seven to eight years for a tree to get up to ‘sellable’ size, I don’t know how we’re going to have trees in seven to eight years.”

So the Kistlers keep planting new plugs and cutting out infected trees when they have time.

This year, the Kistlers have received a lot of calls from the Ottumwa and Oskaloosa areas, due to the closings of Scotch Hill Christmas Trees in Oskaloosa, Woten Tree Farms in Ottumwa and Clearview Tree Farm in Bloomfield.

“Unfortunately we will not be open for the 2012 season,” a message on Scotch Hill’s answering machine said. “Hopefully we will be open in 2013.”

Woten’s Tree Farm went out of business last year after needle cast arrived, killing all of their Scots pines.

“It’s kind of like how tomatoes get blight,” said Karen Woten. “It stays in the ground and you’re not supposed to plant Scots pines back in the same spot more than once or twice. And when you only have 10 acres or so, you have to plant them in the same spot.”

The Wotens started planting their farm in 1990. Out of the approximately 2,200 trees they had, between 1,500 and 2,000 had to be cut down due to disease — “and there’s nothing you can do.”

“Any kind of farming doesn’t always go the way you plan,” Woten said. “We lost quite a few of the fir trees we had. A lot of those died because of the drought.

“You can’t stop it. There’s nothing you can spray, nothing you can do. You can try, but most of the time it doesn’t work.”

Kistler said she’s had to be honest with callers and tell them that some of the trees probably won’t be picture perfect.

“I’ve told them that we’ve had a bad few years, so the trees may not be up to par as we would like them to be,” Kistler said. “I try to shear them every single year, but this year was very hot, and we did our best. The trees are natural. We don’t have a professional machine that goes over the tree and cuts off whatever sticks out. They’re all hand-sheared.”

In this area, people are likely to find Scots pines or white pines, Woten said.

“A lot of people like Scots pine and those are the ones that were hit real bad,” she said. “The white pine doesn’t get that disease. We still had some white but we just had those for our family. They take a little bit longer to grow.”

Woten said some have tried planting balsam firs and other trees from farther north, but those trees don’t do well in dry and hot conditions like Iowa saw this summer.

“I hate to see that tradition stop,” she said. “We saw kids grow up here. They would come out, ride the hay rides ... it was a family tradition. Now it’s sad to see them go other places. Some people just don’t want to go that far and get one at the store.”

Marilynn Faber, owner of Soap Creek Tree Farm in Moravia with her husband, Irvin, said they have reduced numbers of trees this year, though they’ve worked with another farmer to bring more in.

“I think trees have been stressed the last couple of years,” Faber said. “But customers have been coming here so many years, we wanted to keep it open if we could.”

Faber said her four daughters banded together this season to help out on the farm.

“We’re planting new trees every spring,” she said. “This last year a lot of watering took place to keep them alive. But two years of fresh planting were lost because of the weather. We’re trying. We’re trying to keep this farm going.”

1
Text Only
Wapello County
  • 0617 OTT Wapello Co Fair color photo -L -M Come one, come all to the Wapello County Fair

    ELDON — The Wapello County Fair is just around the corner, kicking off with entries being welcomed at Wapello Hall and the Iowa Agricultural Hall from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday. On Thursday, entries for competition will be received from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at

    June 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Siegel, Rubel face off in forum OTTUMWA — For Steve Siegel, a political campaign is nothing new. For Tom Rubel, being the candidate is a first. Now they want the same job. Siegel and Rubel are seeking the Democratic nomination for SD 41, the Iowa Senate district which includes Ottu

    May 29, 2014

  • 0530 OTT Oak tatters picture color Oak leaves left in tatters

    OTTUMWA — Trees throughout Iowa have been terrorized by the likes of Emerald Ash Borer and other dangers in the past months and now oak trees throughout Iowa are in a little bit of more trouble because of a disease called oak tatters. Thankfully, tho

    May 29, 2014 2 Photos

  • Help fight hunger OTTUMWA — The groups began with a question: How to better help Wapello County residents who don't have enough decent food. Next week, they'll decide if they've found any answers. The food security project, Growing Wapello Together, had small groups m

    May 28, 2014

  • Attempted murder trial set for July KEOSAUQUA — The Van Buren County man accused of attempted murder could head to trial in a remarkably short time. Dimitrious Royal has a trial date of July 15. If that date is when the trial actually begins, it would take place just more than 11 weeks

    May 28, 2014

  • Agency aces assessment OTTUMWA — A local agency had a lot riding on the outcome of an independent review. They nailed it. "The credential we just received was to show we are a quality [organization]," said Bryan Dunn, executive director of Sieda Community Action. "It's som

    May 27, 2014

  • County backs bike rides OTTUMWA — Bike rides in Wapello County just received a personal push of goodwill from Wapello County Board of Supervisors. Tuesday, supervisors signed a resolution of support for three area bike rides to be conducted in June. The rides include the H

    May 27, 2014

  • 0527 OTT EMS week color photo -L -M ORHC celebrates EMS Week OTTUMWA — During National EMS week, May 18-24, Ottumwa Regional Health Center (ORHC) celebrated its staff, the community EMS providers and the importance of being prepared in emergency situations through education. The ambulance service at ORHC, also

    May 26, 2014 2 Photos

  • Moving into the future OTTUMWA — Wapello County Supervisor Greg Kenning joked after the board approved upgrading the county’s servers Tuesday. “You can put away your quills.” Jokes asides, Wapello County will now have more opportunity to maximize its server resources. The

    May 20, 2014

  • 0520 OTT mushroom provided -T -M Hidden treasure

    OTTUMWA — Yes, it's kind of like winning the lottery. A mushroom hunter and her family cheerfully acknowledged that feeling after stopping by the Ottumwa Courier on Monday. In one lucky search, they'd found hundreds of morels totaling 10 pounds. As u

    May 19, 2014 1 Photo

Obituaries
Record
Facebook
AP National