This Friday meet brothers Rodney and Randy Buchanan of Bakersville, North Carolina. Perched on a scenic hillside, Buck's Tree Farm stands as a testament to the joy and eco-conscious ethos of Christmas tree farming. Amongst the crisp mountain air, the 45-acre farm has grown from a humble family project into a shining beacon of sustainable agriculture and holiday cheer.
This transformation, nurtured by USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), mirrors the remarkable growth of North Carolina's Christmas tree industry, a vital cornerstone of rural economies in western North Carolina.
A Journey to Success
Since 1979, Rodney, the face of the operation, and Randy, the strategic force behind the scenes, have meticulously cultivated Buck’s Tree Farm into a leading wholesale entity. "Each tree here is more than a product,” Rodney said. “They symbolize an unforgettable part of countless family traditions across the nation.”
Their Fraser Fir trees have adorned homes from the snowy landscapes of New York to the sunny shores of Florida, extending westward to Texas and Missouri and covering states like Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Ohio.
However, their path to prosperity was not without its trials. Severe erosion once posed a formidable threat to the farm's access roads, and the COVID-19 pandemic brought a fresh set of hurdles.
"Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we were already dealing with a critical issue at our tree farm," Rodney said. "The main challenge was the severe erosion on the road leading up to the farm. Rain would transform the hillside into a mud hole near the entry gate, impeding our operations and efficiency. Then, as the pandemic unfolded, it brought additional struggles, including supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, and increased costs, further complicating our strained situation."
Working with USDA
Rodney and Randy found a lifeline in USDA, applying for assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) with NRCS and the former Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) with FSA. These programs provided a helping hand and guided the Buchanan brothers in integrating sustainable practices and navigating the pandemic's tumultuous waters.
"When I initially visited our local NRCS office, it was to ask for advice on self-managing our erosion problem," Rodney said. "To our surprise, the office introduced us to EQIP, which resolved our issue and boosted our efficiency by approximately 50%, especially in the transportation of trees. To this date, their assistance has been crucial in improving our access and the overall infrastructure of the farm."
EQIP provides technical and financial assistance to address natural resource concerns and carry out on-farm conservation practices and activities that lead to improved water and air quality, conserved ground and surface water, increased soil health and reduced soil erosion and sedimentation.
This pivotal transformation was mirrored by the support from CFAP, which provided financial relief during the market upheavals of the pandemic.
"During the lockdown, escalating costs for farm housing and maintenance weighed heavily on us when everyone was confined to their homes," Rodney said. "CFAP was our much-needed financial relief, helping us recuperate from those trying months."
A Sustainable Legacy and Community Dedication
The Buchanans' commitment to quality and sustainability has earned them a place in the heart of North Carolina's esteemed Christmas tree industry. Beyond their commercial success, the Buchanan brothers remain intensely dedicated to community initiatives.
To give back, Rodney and Randy are involved in the Trees for Troops initiative, which provides trees to military families and troops in the United States and overseas. Additionally, their partnership with local organizations helps raise much-needed funds for their community.
As another enchanting holiday season unfolds, Buck’s Tree Farm is an example of unwavering environmental stewardship and holiday spirit.
Visit local farms, ranches, forests, and resource areas through our Fridays on the Farm stories. Meet farmers, producers and landowners who are working to improve their operations with USDA programs.
USDA offers a variety of risk management, disaster assistance, loan, and conservation programs to help producers weather ups and downs in the market and recover from natural disasters as well as invest in improvements to their operations. Learn about additional programs.
For more information about USDA programs and services, contact your local USDA service center.
Linda Gerron is the communications and outreach coordinator for FSA in North Carolina.