Putting down roots; Meet Xmas tree farm boss Charlie.
Snuggled up in front of the fire admiring your Christmas tree, spare a thought for Charlie Hood who may well have grown, nurtured and cut down your very tree in the wilds of Scotland. Charlie, 28, is farm manager for Templeton Christmas Tree Farm near Dundee, which supplies up to 90,000 trees each year to stores including DIY chain Homebase.
I guess this must be a crazy time of year for you?
Our most manic time was about three weeks ago. We were working non-stop getting the trees cut and up into the yard. We have nearly 500 acres so that's a lot of land to cover. This week is busy in the shop but that sort of runs itself. All our big orders are long gone, loaded up on lorries and taken off to wholesalers around the UK.
Are you directly involved in the hard graft these days?
Less so than I used to be. I have a team of seasonal workers who come in when needed as well as permanent staff. I spend more of my time looking to improve crops, heading up training and managing the paperwork side of things.
How did you get into trees?
I come from a family of farmers. My grandparents farm and my dad was a land agent. He also set up a tree growers co-operative, Needlefresh Direct. After school I took a year off and worked on an arable farm and then went to Reading University to study Agricultural Business Management.
Through that I was offered a job up in Inverness that farmed 500,000 trees. I drove the tractors, marked trees and We 500 that lot of to cover did all the physical side of it. I loved it. I knew though that if I wanted to learn management properly and put some new ideas into practice I needed a smaller farm. After 18 months I came here. I've learnt enough now after four years so I'm heading back up there in the summer to manage it.
Do you get to put your feet up after Christmas?
I take a couple of weeks off but this year will be very different because my wife have acres, is a land is expecting our first baby on Boxing Day so I don't expect any rest. January is thankfully very lax in the tree business. It starts getting busy again in February/March when we start planting.
The spring is all about aphid and weed control, then modifying the trees - trimming them up where they need it and capping their height. It's a year-round process. Much of the work has to be done by hand but there is machinery involved too.
Do you spend hours choosing the right Christmas tree for yourself?
Not at all. I spend two minutes and literally grab one, usually about eight feet high, from the shop on the farm. Growing up, we always picked a tree that someone had returned because they didn't like it. We wanted to give it a good home.
What about decorating it?
I'm afraid I don't get involved at all. My wife does it - usually about the second week of December.
British Christmas Tree Growers Association: bctga.co.uk.
Templeton Christmas Tree Farm: taysideforestry.co.uk.
Needlefresh Direct: needlefresh.co.uk.
Lantra, the land-based and environmental skills council: lantra.co.uk.
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We have 500 acres, that is a lot of land to cover
EDUCATION Charlie has a business degree
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|Title Annotation:||Features; Opinion Column|
|Publication:||The Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Dec 14, 2017|
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