J & M Reeves Christmas Greens Ltd.
Matthew Reeves (Class of ‘03)
It may not be an age-old debate, but these days it’s certainly a popular one. Every year when December rolls around, households ask the question: should we put up a real Christmas tree or an artificial one?
In Matthew Reeves’ (Class of ’03) home there is no question.
For the past five years Matthew and his father, John, have been operating J & M Reeves Christmas Greens in Lunenburg County. Although they aren’t really new to the industry. The Reeves family has been producing and shipping Christmas trees to Canadian and international markets since the very inception of the industry.
“My grandfather started harvesting wild trees in the 50’s,” said Matthew. “He had customers in New York. After he passed away, my father and I wanted to keep that going.”
In 2009 Matthew and his father bought a piece of land and over the past few years, have continued to grow. They now produce various sizes and grades of Nova Scotia balsam fir trees on 400 acres.
“The majority of our trees are wholesaled directly to New York and New Jersey, as well as some Canadian brokers,” says Matthew. Although some of their trees are sold at small local retail shops. In addition to trees, J & M Reeves also supply wreaths.
In total, 8-10,000 trees are cut annually from the Reeves property. Complementing that, 3-4,000 wreaths are hand-made for J & M Reeves Christmas Greens at the homes of local residents.
“We want our farming operation to have a positive impact on our community,” says Matthew. “We want to be good citizens, good neighbours and provide employment to the community.”
Tree season employs numerous residents making the wreaths as well as six to eight labourers in the woods. And because the Christmas tree business isn’t as simple as harvesting trees each Christmas season, J & M Reeves have two full-time seasonal workers.
“It all really begins in April,” says Matthew. “We start by spreading fertilizer and under bushing the trees. Around July we begin summer shearing, which continues on to harvest season.” Matthew, John and their employees start cutting brush for wreaths in October. All the work is done by hand. They also begin tagging.
That’s when the extended family steps-in. “My niece likes to help tag the trees.”
Tagging involves accessing and marking trees that will be cut that particular season. A coloured ribbon is placed on each of these trees. There are three colours of ribbon, each colour representing a different grade for the tree. The tags also act as a counting and tracking system.
Finally in November it’s all hands-on deck. Matthew, who works full-time for the Royal Bank of Canada, in Halifax, takes two weeks of vacation and heads to the woods for the most labour intensive part. Matthew’s brother and sister also join the crew when they are available.
“Cutting takes about three weeks,” he says. As the trees are cut, they are put through a baler, which wraps the trees in baler twine, so the trees are not damaged. They are then gathered by tractor and loaded on into large containers. Once a trailer is full, they are picked up by an 18-wheeler and sent to their destination. The trees are then ready to be purchased and become a part of very special family traditions.
“That’s definitely what gives me the most pride,” Matthew says. “Seeing the truck loaded with good trees, heading to the US or somewhere in Canada. It makes us feel like we’ve done a good job.”
And contrary to some beliefs, those in the Christmas industry in NS really are doing a good job all around.
What many consumers don’t realize about real trees is not only are they beautiful, fragrant and natural, but they are environmentally friendly as well. The Christmas tree industry is completely sustainable and is in no way contributing to deforestation. Trees are renewable, reusable and biodegradable and never end up in a landfill at the end of their lifetime.
Matthew and his family operation are one of many in Nova Scotia contributing to this huge industry. Nova Scotia has roughly 1200 families producing an estimated 1.3 million balsam fir Christmas trees on 30,000 acres of land.
“We believe in providing outstanding customer service, producing trees of exceptional quality and continuing to grow the industry and our business through the use of sustainable harvesting practices,” says Matthew.
And that they do.
If you haven’t before, J & M Reeves hope you will consider a real tree as part of your family tradition this Christmas season.
To find a choose and cut or retail lot in your area, visit the Christmas Tree Council of Nova Scotia online at iloverealtrees.com.