British Columbia

B.C. grower's frustration with dried-out Christmas tree plants idea for her own tree farm

Leslee Lucy’s store-bought Christmas tree was bringing frustration to the season instead of joy, so the Merritt, B.C., woman decided to start her own tree farm.

Leslee Lucy could have her first crop ready in a few years

Young trees are shown in a golden-green field against the backdrop of a mountain and blue sky.
Seedlings soak up the sunshine at Lucy's Tree Farm near Merritt, B.C. (Leslee Lucy)

Leslee Lucy's store-bought Christmas tree was bringing frustration to the season instead of joy.

Lucy, who lives near Merritt in B.C.'s southern Interior, remembers that tree from 2020 being in such bad shape it wouldn't even soak up water.

"As Christmas is going on, it's just drooping, drooping, drooping. Things are falling off, and I threw a hissy fit when I threw it out," Lucy told CBC Daybreak Kamloops host Shelley Joyce. "And I thought, 'I'm just going to grow my own darn tree from now on.'"

That moment of annoyance was the genesis of Lucy's Tree Farm, which Lucy hopes will produce its first crop of Christmas trees in the fall of 2025 or 2026. When the time comes, she plans to sell trees in the local community and provide them to family and friends.

Financial planner with a forestry background

For Lucy, the idea of starting a Christmas tree farm wasn't a complete leap into the unknown. Even though she's been a certified financial planner for 24 years, she comes from a forestry family. After doing some research, watching YouTube and getting tips from her "forestry people," she was ready to break ground on her seven-acre property in the spring of 2021.

One woman kneels, and two women stand behind her, one with a shovel, on farmland, with a cloudy sky in the background.
Leslee Lucy kneels down on her property near Merritt, B.C., with sisters Susan, left, and Judy behind her. Lucy has turned seven acres of land into a Christmas tree farm. (Leslee Lucy)

Lucy planted 300 Douglas fir seedlings — each about 12 inches in height — but says the blazing-hot conditions of that summer's heat dome, followed by an extreme cold snap in the winter, wiped out about 60 per cent of them. Undaunted, she planted 200 more seedlings in the spring of 2022. This time, she tried balsam, and they're thriving.

"The Douglas firs are still a little struggling, but the balsams were two feet by fall — they doubled in size over the summer," she said.

Three to four years from now, Lucy says she should have trees that are five feet tall and ready for decorating.

While there's money to be made in selling Christmas trees, Lucy says that's not her intention. Within the Merritt community, she plans to charge $10 per foot — so $50 for a five-foot tree — which she says is half of what she could charge in Vancouver.

Lucy's real vision is to have her trees enjoyed by friends and family. And she's got a lot of family members — 70 people on her side and 40 on her husband's. Between them, she says they have 16 grandchildren.

"I have the idea of a big outdoor fire and Christmas tunes. That's what it's all about," she said.

A tiny tree with green needles is shown on a small dirt patch with pieces of wood around it.
A newly-planted tree, with shakes around it for protection from wind and the south sun, is shown at Lucy's Tree Farm near Merritt, B.C. (Leslee Lucy)

B.C. has chronic shortage of Christmas trees

While Lucy's Tree Farm isn't going to be a major provider on the B.C. Christmas tree scene, Paul Huesken says he's glad to see another grower in the game. He's president of the B.C. Christmas Tree Association (BCCTA) and says the province has had a shortage of trees for a decade, a situation made worse by recent climate challenges.

Huesken, who owns Woodsong Christmas Trees about 100 kilometres east of Vancouver, points specifically to the impact of 2021's heat dome when temperatures in various parts of B.C. — including at Lucy's Tree Farm in Merritt — soared past 40 C. To operate successfully, Huesken says growers can only afford about a five per cent mortality rate in their freshly-planted crops. But, in one of his own fields, he says he lost 80 per cent of a crop because of the extreme heat.

Huesken says this year's late-season drought in B.C. also hurt many growers. 

Another reason for the shortage of Christmas trees on the B.C. market, he says, is economic in nature.

"Trees used to come from Washington and Oregon, but the dollar disparity has impacted that. And in more recent years, trees have been coming from Quebec and Ontario, New Brunswick, but now you have the transportation costs."

At the start of the pandemic, a woman in Merritt planted some trees and started Lucy's Tree Farm.


Jason Peters is a journalist based in Prince George, B.C., on the territory of the Lheidli T'enneh. He can be reached at